Free Range on Food: Parsley, asparagus on the grill, Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook and more

Apr 03, 2013

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

Greetings, food people, and welcome to today's chat! We've got special guests Monica Hesse, source of today's Gwyneth analysis; Emily "I (Heart) Parsley, and You Should Too" Horton; and Jim "If I Can Eat It, I Can Smoke It, and That Includes Asparagus" Shahin. We might even see a special appearance by Spirits dude Jason Wilson, but don't count on it. 

We'll have giveaway books for our two favorite chatters today, so make those questions/comments good. The books' identity will remain a secret until the end of the chat so that you don't gear your questions to suit the book. 

Let's do it!

Monica Hesse totally nailed how I feel about our dear Gwyneth. I *especially* love her tone-deafness and will be disappointed if Blue Ivy doesn't get a name drop in the new book. I've been following her site since day one and I have totally drunk the Kool-Aid, which, by-the-by, Gwyneth would never approve of with its artificial dyes and sugar. She's the reason I attempted to do a cleanse (I lasted 36 hours and I like to think she'd be proud of me.) I loved the last cookbook, I thought there were some interesting but simple recipes and they were written well enough to lead success. That being said I hate her reliance on Vegenaise. Why bother with all the healthy stuff if you're just going to slather on something processed? Does she at least have a recipe for vegan mayo in the new book?

No recipe for vegan mayo. Just recipes that mix Veganaise with other ingreds. 

Although there are some recipes in which she allows for a sheep's milk yogurt substitution. I made her tahini dressing with Veganaise, but she gives yogurt as an alternative.

And let me know if you do find a good vegan mayo recipe. Kim Barnouin, of Skinny B----- fame, also uses processes vegan mayo in her recipes. Perhaps Alicia Silverstone has something. She's very anti-processed.


Can you explain what the difference is between medium grain and long/extra-long grain rice? I have a recipe that calls for medium grain and I actually had a bit of a time trying to find it. Thanks!

What kind of recipe -- was it for a paella? Think of short-, medium- and long-grain rice in Goldilocksian terms of degrees. Medium grains are the length in-between, not as starchy as the short grains (like risotto and glutinous varieties) but sticky enough to clump together when it's cooled, unlike the long and slender grains. Medium-grain rice is fairly moist (Food Lover's Companion). Goya makes it, as do a few Asian manufacturers.  Maybe it's harder to find because it's not always labeled specifically as "medium-grain."


We like using medium-grain rice in this Staff Favorites side dish: Arroz Veracruzano.  (Recipe's in TWP Cookbook, out so very soon!)

How much parsley would you need to eat to counteract bad breath? When I was a child, burger joints always put a sprig of parsley on the plate and I remember a sign that said something like, "If you'll just chew this sprig of parsley, you needn't eat your onions sparsely." I don't think it worked.)

Alas, most of what I've read suggests that parsley as breath-freshener is a myth.

I wish packages had more specific info -- Sell by, if refrigerated use by, if left on the counter or kept in a breadbox, use by, and discard after. The package says only "sell by Feb 24." It's been in the refrigerator. It looks and smells fine. I think maybe it should go in the garbage but instead I'm using it for toast. (Because it looks and smells fine and nothing says "discard after." And it's easier than going out to buy a new loaf.) If I become ill, I'll write again during the chat to warn you. PS - It's 7-grain whole wheat commercial bread.

I hear you on those sell-by dates. If it looks and smells fine (no mold), it's fine.

I thought Monica Hesse's review of Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook was hilarious. I have to say, as ridiculous as Gwynnie can be, she makes me jealous. Like the recent time when her "good friend" Jose Andres dropped by her London house to make her dinner. Wish he'd do that for me!

There's a popcorn "recipe" in the book (popcorn, oil, salt), in which Gwyneth extolls the popcorn-making skills of her dear friend "Camerino." Much speculation over whether Camerino is Cameron Diaz. I vote yes -- when I was at the Vanity Fair Oscars party last year, the two of them hung out, giggling, all night long.

any idea when they will be showing up at farmers' markets???

Our source over at FreshFarm Markets just heard from the farmer at Spring Valley Farm and Orchard in West Virginia, which is where ramps usually show up first. He's estimating the end of April, later than normal, because of the cool weather. They still have snow cover out there!

Is there somewhere in the Alexandria/Arlington area to get kitchen knives sharpened? Also, can openers? My can opener is very high quality, but the blade is dulling after years of use. I hate to think about it cluttering up a landfill if I can't get it sharpened.

I have had my knives sharpened at the Sur La Table in Pentagon City. I'm really not sure about the can opener part. Maybe the folks at the store could provide some insight. I know it's in D.C., but you could also inquire with the DC Mobile Sharpening guys at Union Market. They seem to do a wide variety of tools. Garden pruners, anyone?

You can get knives sharpened at La Cuisine, too...

I enjoyed your article on parsley today and particularly appreciated that you included a discussion of the virtues of flat vs. curly leaf parsley. Besides these two varieties that are common in grocery stores, are there other types of parsley, and what would they be used for? I also agree that the dried variety is absolutely worthless. I used to have some, and the last time I opened the bottle it smelled like stale grass clippings. Pitched it and never looked back.

Glad you enjoyed the piece! Curly and flat are the two primary varieties of leaf parsley, but there are lots of heirloom varieties among the two--the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook, which is a sort of meeting place and exchange forum for seed-saving gardeners, lists something like 15 different types. There's also parsley root, which looks something like a parsnip and is evidently delicious, though I have yet to find any around these parts.

I was browsing through a cookbook under the index chickpeas and came across this recipe.  I saw artichokes and olives and thought yum. Then I noticed it had chicken. My spouse is a vegetarian so I would like do make this vegetarian. Can I just leave out the chicken? How would you change it? I love the thought of chickpeas, artichokes and olives. Do you know of a similar vegetarian recipe?

That's too funny, that you didn't notice the chicken at first, when the dish is called Braised Chicken With Artichokes and Olives! Anyway, you could certainly leave out the chicken and turn it into a chickpea-focused stew. I'd triple the chickpeas. Oh, and of course you should use veggie stock.

I just don't get it. Do people just want her perceived lifestyle? But anyway, buying a cookbook written by a celebrity is like buying a book on woodworking written by a pharmacist.

The big question with a celebrity cookbook is how much is "written" by the celebrity. Gwyneth had a co-author, Julia Turshen, who is a trained chef. (And my god, of course I want her lifestyle. Have you seen the pictures of her house?)

Hi Rangers! My many thanks for the chats. My fiance recently came across Detroit style pizza and, aside from being square and topped with sauce instead of cheese, it seems like the deep dish pizza we are accustomed to in Chicago. I would like to re-create this at home, but my google searching has not turned up any recipes that look great. Any suggestions? Thanks so much!

From my limited experience with Detroit-style pizza -- which consists of a few minutes on Google just now -- it appears to be close to Sicilian-style, no? Check out my Sicilian Slab recipe to see if it appeals.

Could someone please tell her that she is so much more beautiful without the black eyeliner? She either looks fresh faced and natural in magazine photos, or, made up with black eyeliner. She is one of the few people I've seen who can truly pull off the "no makeup" look and she is so much more beautiful without it (or at least without the hard line of black eyeliner).

Sad, unfortunate reality: Starlets in the "no makeup" look are often wearing more makeup than the average woman wears on her wedding day. It take a lot of primping to look natural. But I will make sure to tell Gwyneth, using the trans-Atlantic ESP connection I have attempted to cultivate with her over the years.

We bought a bunch of fresh dill to make tzatziki sauce with our Easter dinner, and now I have a lot of dill left over. I also have a lot of turkey left over. What are some good ways to use dill in side dishes, or with the cooked turkey?

Good q! I have a bunch myself. Thinking about making a compound butter: finely chopped dill with softened unsalted butter, maybe a little aleppo pepper and lemon or lime zest. Roll and freeze into a log. A slice can make an instant pan sauce for sauteed fish or turkey cutlets -- stuffed under the skin of a roast chicken. 


Other uses: in mashed potatoes or in a pureed potato-leek soup; stirred into scrambled eggs with a little feta; in a cooked turkey/dill/roasted red pepper omelet;  blend with a little sour cream or creme fraiche and some chopped sorrel for a  nice sauce for cold poached salmon.


It's great in this Persian Noodle Soup and this  salad with mung beans and walnuts. You can always chop it up and divide among ice cube trays, add a little water to cover and freeze. Old school! 

I asked about oat flour a few weeks back and haven't been able to find it. One suggestion was to use a quality oat and a food processor and make my own. What would you guys consider a quality oat? Thanks!

I don't know where you live, but as someone who has recently combed grocery store aisles in search of specialty flours for my day of Gwyneth Paltrow baking, I can affirm that Whole Foods sells a few different brands of oat flour. And other companies -- Arrowhead Mills, Bob's Red Mill -- sell their oat flour for delivery online.

I first discovered asparagus about five years ago and tried the simple prep of tossing a bunch with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasting it. I loved it, so I had my husband try some - he spat it out. Whatever, he's a picky eater. I've been happily eating it ever since, but about a year ago, I noticed he would eat it whenever it came as a side with his meat at a restaurant. I got upset, because it was the exact same prep - roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper. I finally talked him into trying mine a few weeks ago. He told me to give him just a small amount and objected to how much I put on his plate. He ended up eating all of it, including the leftovers still in the pan. He now requests it on a weekly basis and says he loves it. Success!!!! Sorry, I just had to brag. I do want to try grilling it soon. Pretty sure that will also be quite yummy.

It's always good to have an asparagus story with a happy ending. 

Faced a tough run of legal bills by eating down my pantry & freezer. Looks like I'm moving now! Dried navy beans, canned stock, frozen turkey meatballs etc. all were consumed & shared. No budget for dining out, but hosted two potlucks to stay social. Bread machine helped use up flour. Saved my budget, try it.

You are a frugal role model. Consider yourself saluted. 

I want to start making and experimenting with french macarons. I figure, though, that I might end up spending a fortune on almond flour through all the trial and error. Is there a good/reliable place to get some? Or a bulk amount for cheaper, but still good quality?

Easier answer: Make your own! Our macaron recipes (and others) have you grind blanched sliced or slivered almonds with confectioners' sugar in the food processor. Check them out. I was a macaron novice and made the Chocolate Mint Fudge Macarons. No problems whatsoever.

Chocolate Mint Fudge Macarons

I just finished reading this article and can't thank you struck just the right tone about this well-intentioned and mis-guided celebrity advice-giver. I needed a good laugh...thanks so much!

Thank you! I have to say I'm surprised at how many people thought the piece was a total hit job on Gwyneth. I wasn't lying in the beginning at the beginning of the piece. I do love her. I find her completely ridiculous, but I feel very fondly toward her ridiculousness.

The food in the photos looks really unappetizing, to say the least! I'd be horrified if something like that were served to me. Maybe that's why Gwynnie is skinny. Are the photos from the book?

No, we shot them (but not in our usual studio setup). The Cashew Moment looks like you think it would -- but it tastes pretty good. And the turkey chili got a general thumbs' up. Don't hold this particular infraction against Monica's soulmate. 

And really, when is the last time you saw a bowl of chili and thought, "What a beautiful piece of food?" Chili rarely looks gorgeous, but almost always tastes great.


As for the Cashew Moment...I really cannot explain the Cashew Moment. I think you must experience it for yourself.

There is also a person who sharpens knives at the Bethesda farmers markets twice a month and at various Williams-Sonoma stores in the area, including the Old Town Alexandria location next week.

Even though you guys suggested it a few times last year, I couldn't bring myself to put greens on the grill. When I broke out the grill this weekend though I decided it was time. WHOA. There is no turning back! I grilled romaine, added some pickled onions and blue cheese, and drizzled with olive oil. I promise to listen earlier next time!

Two words for you: Grilled Cabbage, compliments of Editor Joe. 

Let's just say it: grilled veggies are great!  Romaine, cabbage, raddichio, whatever. If there is a vegetable you haven't grilled, do it. 

I love the touch of the pickled onions with the grilled romaine and blue cheese, btw. 

You can keep it and use it in case you get an ear infection instead of that nasty processed penecillin! Just kidding. Not a doctor. Don't play one on TV. Not sure that generic bread mold would cure a disease.

I adored this article, in particular the sentence about how it is too easy to hate Gwyneth. I think this goes for pretty much all celebrity chefs that people love to criticize. I know my home doesn't look like Martha's, Ina's, or even the self-proclaimed woman-of-the-people Ree Drummond. But if I wanted to look at my own kitchen all I have to do is turn around. I look to these people to see something different and some inspiration.

I'm going to make it my life's mission to use up the jar of pimenton purchased for this story. I never would have purchased it without a nudge, but, like you say, it's good to be knocked out of our comfort zones every once in awhile.

I can't get enough of my pimenton. Monica, just sprinkle it on anything. (Popcorn!)

Unlikely to be Cameron Diaz as the "o" on the end indicates it's a guy. For Cameron Diaz, it'd be Camerina.

Oh, maybe it was Camerina. I was loopy on Avocado Toast by that point in the afternoon.

I can TOTALLY imagine Gwynnie calling Cameron Camerino, even knowing she was using the masculine...

I picked up a bottle of balsamic glaze and, after drizzling it over last night's roasted asparagus, I might have to eat it on everything. Obviously it's a great finisher for vegetables, but what are some creative ways I could incorporate it? Fruit tarts? Pork chops?

Fruit tarts, absolutely. On garlicky white beans, inspired. On strawberries, perfection. On small chunks of aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, transporting. Chatters, what do you do with it?

I'd like to prepare dinner and take it for to a friend of mine who just had a baby however she has celiac disease and can't have anything with gluteon. Ideally I want something I can make at home and she can reheat when she wants. What are some good go to recipes? I don't consider myself a strong chef so the more foolproof the better

We have a bunch of recipes that fall into the gluten-free, make-ahead arena.

Chicken and Tortilla Aztec Casserole (Cazuela Azteca) is just one of them.

Chicken and Tortilla Aztec Casserole (Cazuela Azteca)

I took my knives to the Bethesda Strosniders years ago.

Seriously, guys. I work with a vegan surgeon, made Nikki's Healthy Cookies for him at Christmas but want something for his birthday. Cake, please. Help me, (star wars character with funny ears). I'm a very good baker, just need a recipe.

i want in on the tasting. i have been searching for a good doughnut in the dc area for years. having grown up in buffalo new york, i was privileged to be exposed to freddie's doughnuts. the absolute best. it was a 24 hour operation with bakers in white uniforms visible through it's huge plate glass window. my dad would bring them home after work. It wasn't until I left home for college did i learn doughnuts were popular breakfast food. The best doughnuts I have had this decade were from peter pan bakery in greenpoint. the little doughnuts at ten penh were very good. the doughnuts (not the doughnut holes) available at Palena on Saturday are quite yum. A trip to Nashville for my son's college graduation made it difficult to squeeze in a trip to the Donut Den. But squeeze I did and was amply rewarded. Japonaise bakery in boston has wonderful doughnuts and i plan on visiting betty ann's doughnuts there in may. I think doughnuts should be old school. not huge doughy squares. Brother, whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the doughnut and not upon the hole. Give me a call, i'm definitely the girl for the job.

You'll have to be content, I'm afraid, with following along on our Dozen Weeks of Doughnuts tastings. You could then go taste for yourself, of course -- and let us know where you agree and disagree!

Always good on anything tomato, especially soup and salad.

A bag of it is reasonably priced at Trader Joe's. Almonds are pricey on their own. But I like the idea of making the flour at home.

Are the following addictive and need to be curbed?: - Sweetness, - Saltiness, - Spiciness

Hmm. This smacks of the Taste Police. Why do you ask?

Nope wouldn't want it, especially when growing up in that lifestyle that you don't know a migraine from a stroke.

In Gwynnie's defense: She might have been having a basilar artery migraine. I get those, and they're scary. Symptoms can include blindness or blurred vision, slurred speech, and dizziness. It's not a run of the mill headache.

Ricotta is my new breakfast staple - spread on toast with honey and almonds, with honey and fruit - but it's always served cold. I'd love to incorporate it in other meals, but how do I cook with ricotta without it getting gritty when heated?

I'm working on a story right now about charring foods. When I visited with the chef, Victor Albisu, who is opening a char-centric restaurant soon, he made a "salad" of ricotta charred on a scorching hot cast-iron skillet,then added other items, like charred cherry tomatoes, charred broccoli rabe, and charred olives, and drizzled an herb and olive oil dressing over it. Divine! I've been making it at home as an easy appetizer. 

The ricotta, incidentally, gets blackish on the bottom, holds together well, and doesn't lose any of its creamy texture or mild flavor. 

I froze some oven-roasted cherry tomatoes, and now don't know what do to with them. Would I just saute them to make a side dish, or would they be better as a sauce?

A sauce would be fab, I think. Or you could add them to a roasted or sauteed ratatouille, to a ground lamb filling, say, for the Moussaka Rolls of Dinner in Minutes fame in today's section. 


BTW, have you ever tried Mike Isabella's Olive-Oil- Poached Cherry Tomato Sauce? It's about the best thing you can do with those toms. I can barely resist the urge to smear it all over my face.

I find asparagus to be hard to serve as its own course because it kills the taste of wine. I was thinking it might go well with an Amari-based cocktail. Any suggestions? Thanks, Kevin

Gruner Veltliner, I think, pairs really nicely with asparagus. Or what I usually fall back on, a sauvignon blanc from the Loire, like something from Sancerre or Quincy.

I'm throwing a small get together/pre-game for my sister-in-law next Friday night, and need an appetizer idea. The idea is for the food to be fun and easy to eat. They also need to be something that I can make this weekend or during the week and freeze/reheat, or else put together quickly after work on Thursday or Friday. So far I'm doing mini grilled cheeses, boneless buffalo chicken bites, a sweet and spicy popcorn/nut mix, and goat cheese jalapeno hush puppies. I think I need to add one more thing. Maybe something lighter?

Best comment maybe ever:  "The Cashew Moment is what really makes this," the reviewer's husband said, "It tastes like mashed Saltines." Priceless!

He spoke the truth when the rest of us were afraid. The Cashew Moment Has No Clothes.

Monica, how much did it cost you to make those items that you wrote about in the article? The special ingredients, seem like they could cost a pretty penny. Loved the review!

I think I mentioned in the article that the whole shopping trip was about $80 for one day's worth of meals. But $10 alone was for a sack of gluten-free flour, of which I only used a cup, and there were a few other big ticket items (spices, nuts, etc) that I'll use over time.


And then there were a few items that I purchased, and that will sit in my refrigerator for a year until I discover them, perplexed.

I recently bought some polenta..the kind that comes in one of those log/roll/tube things. I love polenta at restaurants, but I have no idea what to do with it myself, especially since it is in a log form. Any thoughts?

I'm not a big fan of those polenta rolls, but they're good for slicing and grilling -- in a pan or outside. And then there's this, which I have to say I must try: Polenta Fontina Panini With Mushroom Sauce.

My guess is, Gwyneth lent her name and photos to the cookbook so it'd sell and her chef friend could make some money. Is that possible?

I'm sure she actually does cook -- she's been very vocal about her various food passions for years. It's just not clear how much of the recipe development she engaged in.

Hi All - I went to pin a recipe today and was told "Sorry, couldn't find any pinnable images or video on this page." I'm not sure if this is a WaPo problem or a Pinterest problem, but I thought I would flag it for you! 

Thanks for mentioning. My understanding of the ins and outs of Pinterest is pretty basic, but I'm thinking since there is in fact an image there, it should be pinnable. Maybe it's on their end...

I remember being surprised when I was first reading GOOP to realize that Gwyneth wasn't a vegan or especially healthy eater. She loved her meats as well as a good cocktail (more than one edition talked about making great drinks). I like that Gwyneth much better than this "no sugar helps me be nicer to my husband" version.

Those of us who have followed Gwyneth for years know that she has been through many special and wondrous food phases: Vegan, Macrobiotic, etc. etc. etc. Wait a few years, and she'll release a book that has her hunting and dressing her own bison.

Note that traces of gluten can remain in things like wooden cooking implements. When cooking for your friend, line pans or use foil, and use plastic or metal wood. Even a trace amount of gluten can make them ill, so vigilance is important.

If my love for spicy food is an addiction, I don't want to be right.

I'm so with you. "If loving you is wrong..."

Sigh. Makes me long for a French Twist from Colonial Donuts (the Lakeshore shop) in Oakland, CA. Super light, a little eggy, not greasy. My benchmark for crullers, and I haven't found anything even remotely close back here. If anyone knows of a shop in No VA that does light crullers, I'd love to hear about it!

I'm pregnant (which means I'm tired and hungry pretty much all the time), living in temporary housing (which means no cookbooks and lousy cooking supplies), and have been basically living on PB&J sandwiches, frozen burritos, and apples. Can you help me expand my options? I know you've done some great kid-friendly, easy packed lunch ideas in the past, but my search skills aren't working so well! Vegetarian ideas (or at least non-lunch meat) would be awesome!

As a vegetarian, my go-to lunch involves a toasted pita with hummus (I like edamame or white bean in addition to regular) topped with chopped carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, or whatever vegetables I happen to have on hand. Sprinkle a tablespoon of pine nuts or pecans over the top, and you're good to go.

Oh! Hadn't even thought about doing cupcakes for him. Champagne cupcakes, lovely! Thanks!

I wanted to comment on the anti-soy thread from last week. I know a lot of women, myself included, that avoid soy like the plague. Soy is estrogenic. So, anyone that has a disorder or problems with estrogenic foods, such as endometriosis, should avoid those products. That's the main reason that I've heard of people being anti-soy.

Would white cranberry juice work as well?

Yes, I believe so. The antioxidant properties of the juice doesn't change when it's made from white cranberries, which are just berries that are mature but haven't gotten red yet.

Since a few miilion cicadas will soon be available for consumption, do you have any prep/cooking tips for enjoying this protein?

I don't believe we have anything here, but some University of Maryland "Cicadamaniacs" created this delightful brochure in 2004, which not only includes a look at what cultures eat insects but also lists a number of cicada recipes. Among them: El Chirper Tacos and Soft-Shelled Cicadas!

Free Rangers, In looking at the online section, I was drawn to the selection of brunch recipes and have a question about the two coffee cake recipes, both of which sound delicious. In the blueberry yogurt recipe, does it make a difference if I use Greek-style yogurt, which is less watery? In the other, is there a way to substitute Greek-style yogurt for the buttermilk, which I rarely have on hand? I also assume it would be ok to substitute walnuts for the pecans? Thanks!


Greek-style yogurt would be fine to use in the blueberry coffee cake. I think I might have made it that way once! 

And I think it'd be okay to swap nuts on the Pecan-Chocolate-Espresso Coffee Cake, although pecans are sweeter than walnuts and the recipe works so nicely as is. But because the buttermilk is really the only liquid element here, I think a yogurt swap is not indicated. You can buy (I do so all the time) small containers of buttermilk at Giant. Or even if you have to buy a quart of it, you're all set for making fabulous scones and biscuits. 

Monica's article on Gwyneth (does anyone else have as much problem as i do spelling her name?) was hysterical. She is ridiculous-she even has a name that is hard to spell and with that diet, what does she eat? lettuce? with just lemon juice spritzed on it? But that being said, for all my annoyance about her and for her, Im just the slightest bit jealous. I mean if eating her way makes you look like that i wish that we were all wealthy enough and just special enough to live like that!

Exactly. If my only job were to care for myself -- preparing loving, organic meals every day and doing pilates in my private studio -- I would look exactly like Gwyneth, once I grew four inches and swapped out my genes.

Maybe you should research various types of migraines before cracking on dear Gwynnie. Certain migraines have almost the exact same symptoms as a stroke. It's scary (I know) and doesn't speak to her lack of awareness.

As I posted above. Basilar artery migraines can be scary stuff, especially if its your first one.

There's an outfit (I think it's a one man shop) called Precision Knife Sharpening in Alexandria. They offer both mail-in and drop off options.

I have recently become a big fan of parsley tea. Chop some parsley and boil it in water for about 5 minutes. It's got a beautiful fresh taste that feels lightening.

Parsley tea is new to me. Thanks for the tip!

Can you make a kosher doughnut at home?

As in, with kosher ingredients, or as in, you happened to have a rabbi on hand to bless your baked goods? I'm sure the former is more likely than the latter. 

What is her favorite kind of apple? Thanks, Monica.

Her daughter, Apple. Obviously.

We only ever had asparagus from cans when I was a kid. It was beyond horrible. Stringy, soggy, revolting. But supposedly "good" for us so we were obliged to eat it. So imagine my amazement when, after years of refusing to eat it ever again as an adult, I finally did, and it was crisp, flavorful, enchanting, delicious! Now, whether it's raw, grilled, sauteed or steamed, it's one of my favorite foods! The lesson part: Don't assume you know what something tastes like based on its canned version.

A confession that will probably get me kicked off of this chat: I love canned peas. Straight from the jar, sometimes not even warmed. I don't even think of them as a vegetable. I think of them as a sin.

Get out. OK, stay. ;-)

SO MANY vanilla beans! Not the worst problem, I realize. I was able to make a bundt cake that used up three of them for our easter dinner, but I have about 20 left and would like to use them before they dry out/go bad/do whatever vanilla beans do. (Currently they're stored in an airtight canning jar, but I open it up every once in a while to get a bit of air circulating.) We have no dietary restrictions, but should probably shy away from making massive amounts of sweet things since there are only two of us at home (and one of us tends to have a much stronger sweet tooth). Thanks for any ideas!

Make vanilla extract with some of them -- just stick a few in a glass jar with a cup or so of vodka, and give it a couple of months.

You can also use them in one of my favorite things to do with leftover wine (if you ever have any, that is): Mulled Red Wine Syrup.

And you can stick a couple of them in a glass jar and fill with sugar, and you'll have lovely vanilla-scented sugar to use wherever you'd use sugar.

Keep that jar in the refrigerator -- the beans won't dry out as much. You can also open them up and scrape out the seeds to use in recipes that call for vanilla bean paste/puree. (Suspend in a little simple syrup.)

Any suggestions besides the standards of egg salad, deviled eggs and pickled eggs (with pickled beets)?

I love to put chopped eggs on salads, in tacos, in sandwiches.

D'oh! I can't believe you gave away my secret! People are always amazed when I make asparagus on the grill. I don't want to eat it any other way.

     Sorry for letting the asparagus out of the bag, as it were. Glad to know there are other stalk-nuts out there, though. Happy dining!

Recently came across a really good (i.e. restaurant quality) recipe for Chinese dumplings. Problem is the dipping sauce is way to salty. B/T/W I tasted both separately to determine where the problem was. The only ingredients in the sauce are soy, hoisin and sriracha. Switched our the lower sodium soy to aminos and still not satisfied. Do you all have a recipe that is lower in sodium but still taste like what you could get at the local Chinese joint.

How did it taste otherwise? I'm thinking maybe it just needs to be thinned out with a little water or stock. (Dashi?)

Lovely soup recipe Jim...and it looks like it would work nicely with many other smoked/grilled veggies I am sure. I first had smoked asparagus at Smoke & Barrel in Adams Morgan and it was quite yummy as a bar snack. I am always on the lookout for new smoked foods, like smoked onion rings, smoked peanuts, etc. An Irish friend was smoking cabbage a while back and that sounds interesting too. I finally opened my olive oil from The Smoked Olive and it is a keeper; wishing I would have shelled out for their smoked brown sugar now. As far as what to drink with smoked asparagus soup, I think they key is to divert from wines.

     I haven't tried Smoke & Barrel's smoked asparagus. Looking forward to it. 

     You're right, btw, about smoked cabbage. It's fabulous. The vegetable's desnity lends itself well to smoke. I smoke a whole head for about an hour over indirect heat, then slice it in hunks, like steak, and dress with a little olive oil, a squirt of lemon, some ancho powder, and a few strips of fresh mint or basil. Got the idea from chef Tim Love, who makes something similar at his Fort Worth restaurant, Woodshed Smokehouse. Dee-lish!

I made chicken salad the other night from a bird that I has rotisseried. My store bought (hellmans) mayo was in the way back of the fridge and I think it seperated. There was a little oil on top, so I mixed it all together, but when I put it in the salad it completely broke down and now I have an oil dressed container of chicken salad. It doesn't taste funny, it just looks bad and isn't bound. Can this be salvaged? If so, how?

Ah, it must have frozen; that's often the culprit when mayo separates. You can try using an immersion blender to get it back together, but I'm not sure that'll last... 

She's not like other celebs who just put out cookbooks. She does maintain a website and a newsletter of cooking, style and life ideas. She is really trying to help, as unrealistic as her lifestyle is. I honestly beleive she has sincere intentions to help people (whereas I'm willing to belive many just want the PR and sales).

I'm really heartened to see a Gwynnie defender. Fight the good fight, my sister.

I asked last week about the best dishes you make that becomes part of a regular so now..... What is the 1 dish you keep trying but just doesn't turn out, what is something you had high hopes for but fell short? Any bad/horror/funny stories to share ??

Hey, are you the same person asking us about our best and worst trips on the Travel chat? Curious one, eh?

But I'll bite anyway. Probably my worst dish was the whole chicken I caught on fire on my grill. Was trying to do ATK's grill-roasted chicken recipe. Suddenly the thing burst into flames -- my husband in the shower upstairs with the window open heard my yelps from the patio. Somehow I managed to salvage it. Pulled off all the charred skin, submerged the whole thing in a pot to poach. Shredded the chicken, doused it in the barbecue sauce I'd made for the whole bird and called it a day. Let's just say I was glad I decided to do a trial run before I tried it for guests who were coming the next weekend... They got something else.

Fire usually plays a role in my disasters. In college and soon thereafter I seemed to have a string of problems with gas ovens that needed to be manually lit -- and I waited too long to light them, causing singed eyebrows (and more). But the funniest one was the chocolate birthday cake I made for a friend. Had a full cup or two of coffee as an ingredient. I thought, if coffee's good, Kahlua would be better! When I opened the oven to check on it at one point, the oxygen rushing in from the outside caused the alcohol in the cake to catch fire! We called it the exploding cake -- but you know what? It tasted darn good anyway.

     For a long time, I turned out the worst smoked briskets on the planet. Each one was another crime against barbecue. Finally, I called the cousin of my Texan then-girlfriend/now-wife who was famous for his smoked brisket. With some hesitancy (I've always wondered if, before answering, he thought as much about running me out of the state as revealing his recipe), he spilled his secrets. 

Thanks to Red (the cousin's name), the story has a happy ending. Oh, I still run into problems from time to time, but more often than not, they are a thing of wonder.

My pasta-making skills still need improvement. I love the process of making the egg dough and rolling it out. But whenever I make ravioli, I can never seem to get the thickness just right. It may have something to do with my pasta roller. One setting seems too thick to me (creating a chewy pasta), and the next one down is too thin (so the ravioli explodes upon cooking). I'm still working on this one.

Most recently, I started working my way through the Eleven Madison guys' "I Love NY" cookbook. Found a recipe for fennel applesauce puree. Doesn't that sound great? And simple to do. It was one of 4 or 5 components on a plate. didn't taste so good. Needed a little sweetness; tang of the apple got overpowered. Kind of an odd color.  Hard to shove through a sieve and get more than a thimbleful's worth of non-watery puree. And if you don't strain it at all, the texture's unfortunate. Operator error, most likely. But I won't try it a third time. 

I need the recipe for goat cheese jalapeno hush puppies! Please?

Chatter, can you help a friend out?

This would also explain her popcorn feeding expertise (as seen when she fed then BF ARod popcorn at a baseball game)

Frankly, it's a very sweet gesture for Gwyneth to include the non-recipe. It's basically like her saying, "And my friend, Monica. She can microwave a potato like nobody's business. Here is Monica's Baked Potato."

A little on vanilla ice cream, yum!

I went to Lowe's last weekend and got a great planter that I can hang over my railing, plus soil and seeds for rosemary, parsley and lots of basil. Then I realized - should I have bought small plants instead of the herbs? Will they take forever to grow? I think my herb garden dreams may have been a little premature.

You can grow herbs from seed, sure, but you need to germinate them inside and then plant the seedlings outside in the planter. Here's one primer.

Monica, Do you like a particular brand? And are they in a can or a jar? I'm game to try them and maybe find a new food passion. Plus, they can't really be sinful, can they?

Canned. Green Giant. They no longer taste like peas. They no longer taste like a vegetable. They taste like baby food and Great Britain.

I must have good intuition because i bought a bunch of asparagus just night and was trying to figure out what to do with it. I normally steam them or microwave them (dont judge!) but i love the idea of roasting them. Can i do it in my toaster oven? at what temperature? i live in a teeny tiny apartment and the oven doubles as storage so the toaster oven is my main cooking vessel!

I'm the wrong guy to answer because I don't have a toaster oven, but because I wrote about asparagus, I'll take a shot and say that I can't imagine that you can't "grill" them in a toaster oven. In fact, I think the stalks would get a nice blister and should be great. Give it a whirl. 

I broil the suckers! So yes, I think you could crank that toaster oven up as high as it can go and it would do the job.

how about adding it to an egg or potato salad?

Huh? When are they returning?

This summer! (Take cover).

I've been pleased with equal amounts of h2o, tamari, rice vinegar and sesame oil. I'm sure you could add some form of chilis for the heat it sounds like you want.

Yes, that sounds good! Thanks. I thought some H20 would probably help.

I make parsley jelly every year for my extended family. I skipped last year and still haven't heard the end of it.

Also something I need to try. Any favorite uses for it?

Is there is difference in taste? I always thought they were the same thing.

There is a vast difference in flavor to me. Flat-leaf parsley has a more grassy, bitter flavor, while cilantro has a brighter, almost citrus quality. Then again, some folks (like a good friend of mine, who loves Mexican food but hates cilantro) think that cilantro tastes like soap.

Just wanted to say that this had me laughing out loud. Good man, there.

You will not be surprised to hear that every time I've heard the word "moment" in the past week, I've silently followed it up with, "A cashew moment?"

Seems like half of whatever I buy is below the break when I snap the stalk and therefore is supposed to be discarded as too tough or woody. Can these bottom parts be made edible? Not to flavor broth, but edible as asparagus spears.

I always play fast and loose with the snap rule, and end up trimming just an inch or two off the bottom. Using a vegetable peeler to scrape off the outside layers of the tough ends usually makes it tender enough for my palate.

Or any hush puppies really.... I've used recpies, but most of the time I just take cornmeal, whatever else (jalapeno, goat cheese, etc) and then add liquid (usually buttermilk & maybe a beaten egg) and fry. Most origin stories involve frying the leftover breading materials. If you must have a recipe I believe Emeril has a recipe for jalapeno hush puppies you could probably adapt.

You might also try a hardware store in your area. I got mine sharpened at Ace in Logan Circle.

I give a hearty vote for the Lesuer peas with the silver label. Much better than those fat, kelly-green ones.

Surely this must be the first time that the Food chat has ever had a whole strain about the merits of various brands of canned peas.

In a pinch for breakfast, I'll saute some slices in butter and put a little maple syrup on top.

Sounds tasty, almost like a Johnnycake with maple syrup.

Here (California), medium grain rice is usually labeled as Calrose. Can the poster find that?

I made the Grilled Butterflied Herbed Lamb as recommended for Easter. Everyone really enjoyed it. I went by the directions and it was a little overcooked on the first side (charcoal grill), but it still turned out fine. Thanks for the recommendation. It was a nice change of pace from what we normally have.

Grilled Butterflied Herbed Lamb

One of my favorite meals this time of year is hard boiled eggs, roasted asparagus, and sauteed portabellas, all chopped up and mixed together. It is so delicious.

The mention of Almond Flour makes me wonder - Can/Should I store this in the freezer? What about coconut flour? I recently bought some to make a GF cake, and have leftovers. I'd love to save it for another time when I can try out something like a macaroon...

Yep, that's the best place for it, with as much air pressed out of the bag as possible. 

As the author of Cicada-licious, I can attest to the great recipes inside. However, use caution when eating them. A few are fine, but given that they live underground for a long time and can bio-accumulate pesticides and such, we don't know if eating a LOT of them is safe.

That's a very good point. Cicadas may be the land-based version of contaminated fish in the Anacostia.

I know we're almost out of time, but here's grist for next week's mill: Why is coconut water so popular? I can't get next to it. 

Come back with that thought next week!

I can see Gwyneth, after having spent so much time in Spain, attaching "o" to things in casual convo. And I can see also, in line with the whole tone-deafness thing, how she wouldn't catch that error of Spanish grammar, despite having spent so much time in Spain.

She can call me Monaco any time she wants.

The butcher at Let's Meat on the Avenue in Del Ray sharpens knives too.

Bacon-wrapped whitefish canapes.

I received a gift of homemade chili pepper-infused vodka. I will, of course, use it in bloody marys, but does anyone have other drink (or even cooking) uses?

I can't wait to see what other chatters recommend, but I just did a quick search for chili pepper vodka recipes, and hit on this site. Thirty recipes, from spicy vodka cream sauce (yum) to chicken marinades.

I suspect your uses for the vodka will depend on how hot it is. I have a bottle of Absolut Peppar at home that is almost useless because its blistering heat surpasses most people's tolerance level.

Are Green Giant peas....LeSueur County (Minnesota)...the big Green Giant is down the road from my house.

My husband ended up in the ER when he had his first migraine. Took many tests to eliminate more serious conditions.

I have to have that recipe!! Please, please, please?

Yum - that will be next! And thank you - my inspiration was this. I was shocked at how easy the pickled onions were too! My extremely carniverous husband even said he'd like the salad as the whole meal next time!

I made a cake for Easter that used 8 egg whites. I saved the yolks, but got busy and haven't had time to make ice cream with them. How long will they last or should I just toss them?

The USDA says egg yolks in the fridge are good for 2-4 days, so you're right on the edge there.

Well, you've pureed us until smooth, then transferred us to a container and refrigerated us until ready to serve, so you know what that means -- we're done, in a Cashew Moment.

Thanks for all the great q's today, and many thanks to Monica, Emily and Jim for helping us handle them. 

Now for the giveaway books. I regret to inform the Gwyneth fans out there that our review copy of "It's All Good" has some Monica-induced stains on it, so we won't be giving that away (and besides, Monica earned the right to keep it), but that doesn't mean we're empty handed. So...

The chatter who said she's jealous of Gwynnie and mentioned the Jose Andres drop-in, we have "Eating the Alkaline Way: Recipes for a Well-Balanced honestly Healthy Lifestyle" by Natasha Corrett and Vicki Edgson, a book that's hot among the celeb set these days.

And the one who asked about cooking ricotta will get "Orient Express: Fast Food From the Mediterranean" by Silvena Rowe.

Send your mailing info to Becky at, and we'll get you your books!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is editor of the Food section; joining us today are deputy editor Bonnie Benwick, staff writer Tim Carman, editorial aide Becky Krystal, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin, and Spirits columnist Jason Wilson. Guests: Washington freelance writer Emily Horton; Style staff writer and Gwyneth Paltrow groupie Monica Hesse.
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