Free Range on Food: Easter, pupusas and more

Apr 04, 2012

Free Range on Food: Easter, pupusas and more.

Past Free Range on Food chats

Good afternoon, Rangers!

It’s holiday season, and we have much to chew on – not just today on the chat but in the coming days over the table. Easter is this Sunday, and today’s Food section is stuffed with stories and recipes for those who love the traditional ham (the poetic Nathalie Dupree helps navigate you through all those pink slabs of meat) and for those who want to try something different (cookbook author Tony Rosenfeld on the many Easter options beyond ham).

Before then, of course, Passover starts on Friday night, and Food editor Bonnie Benwick has all sorts of ideas on how to prepare your brisket. And if none of those subjects float your boat, we can always talk pupusas, the subject of my Immigrant's Table column this month.

Let's get started. And remember we have two books to pass out to the Rangers with the best questions!

For Passover. I"m making a Tzimmes souffle with 5 separated large eggs in which I'll have to beat the egg whites until they are stiff. May I make this whole dish in advance on Thursday evening, refrigerating it overnight, and baking it on Friday?

I don't think so, unless it's not a very fluffy/classic souffle to begin with. I looked at a few tzimmes souffle recipes online and they're not too far off my own mother's carrot pudding, which I'd say is spongy more than souffle-y. I have baked that one a day in advance and reheated it with no ill effect. If you're pressed for time, I'd advise rolling that way. Bring to room temperature, then reheat in a warm (no more than 300-degree) oven.

has anyone seen them at stores or farmer's markets yet??????

Yes, they've started to appear. Spring Valley Farm and Orchard has them at the FreshFarm Markets on Dupont Circle and in downtown Silver Spring. Keep an eye on our weekly Market Roundup, which is published each Thursday morning on the blog, for more ramp spottings.

Food Gurus, Love the poached salmon recipe! I was planning to make more boring baked salmon this evening for dinner but want to try the recipe--except that I don't have any creme fraiche. Would sour cream be a good substitute? What about greek style yogurt? If I wanted to pick up some creme fraiche, where would I get some--Trader Joe's, Whole Foods? Thanks!

Good for you for not settling for "boring salmon"! Creme fraiche is definitely available at most all Whole Food Markets; they usually keep it in the cheese section near other specialties like mascarpone. You could substitute sour cream for the creme fraiche - it's not quite as creamy and a little more tangy. I do like your idea for Greek yogurt. Texture-wise, it's a better match for creme fraiche.

I am hoping someone can give me guidance. I live in south Florida but have no air conditioning so I don't use my oven very often. Someone suggested I purchase a tabletop halogen convection oven which, according to them, would give me oven capabilities without the heat. Do you or any of the chatters know anything about this appliance? Would I be able to bake cakes, cook meats, use it in place of my standard oven? I greatly appreciate any help you can offer - I love the chats and have used them for many recipes in the past. Thank you.

We'll toss this out to chatters....none of us here have used one.

The wisk attachment to my stand mixer needs a repair - one of the ends of wire has detached from the frame. This seems like it should be a simple fix, a little soldering, right? Any ideas where to get this done?

Yes, that does seem like a simple repair. If you don't have a friendly neighbor with a soldering iron, you can check in with a service that repairs computers and keyboards, etc., or other electronic repairs. Maybe even a hardware store would do it for you, if they have a lawnmower repair shop.

Would love some off-the-cuff ideas for some more flavor combinations that would make for some savory, delicious breakfast pupusas. Ever since I read your story this morning (admittedly, while eating a boring hard-boiled egg) I can't stop thinking about pupusas. Also, can you make and freeze them?

Good question. It's one that I gave considerable thought as I worked on my pupusa-making technique. Among other combinations I was toying with: egg, cheese and chorizo (with a salsa topping); ham and cheese (for a take on a classic morning croissant);  and bacon, mushroom and cheese. Just think of some of your favorite omelets and transfer their ingredients to a  pupusa, keeping in mind that you want to reduce moisture as much as possible.

Wondering whether there was a reason one shouldn't use the salmon poaching liquid in the sauce where it calls for some water. Would it do something negative to the taste/texture?

Great question. I wouldn't say that the taste of the poaching liquid is bad, but it's really strong. Both the sharp booziness of the wine and the gamey flavor of the salmon would overpower the mild tanginess of the creme fraiche dressing.

I love a good cheese souffle as it is my family's traditional holiday morning breakfast. But living away from my family and cooking just for one, I only get to eat it on the rare ocassions that I am with them. Is there a good recipe for an individual sized cheese souffle? Usually, I just make extras of things and microwave them later, but eggs don't take too kindly to being reheated like that.

I freeze souffles -- after all, they sell them frozen.  Of course make sure it is well seasoned, then divide into ramekins and freeze.  Add an extra egg white next time if you eed to.

I'm hosting a bridal shower this weekend and was contemplating making a yellow cake layered with whipped cream and strawberries in the center. Can I assemble the cake in the morning to be served at 7pm? Or is it best to assemble it right before serving? And if I have to assemble it before serving, can I whip the cream up earlier and keep it refrigerated? Thanks!

Yep, you can do it that far ahead -- as long as you're refrigerating it.  The cream can certainly be whipped even a day in advance, especially if you've used some kind of stabilizer such as confectioner's sugar or cream of tartar, or even used the whipping cream that has stabilizers in it (check the label).

I find that if I whip in a little mascarpone that it holds it longer. 

Can someone please tell me why readers are no longer able to post reviews of Washington Post recipes or read reviews that were written before this privilege was removed?

I'm raising my hand! In short, that function in the administrative end of our database had to be dismantled because The Post switched its kind of commenting platform.  The new system's not compatible with our recipe database. This was supposed to be temporary disruption; it's a developer/manpower issue. So for now, please send your recipe comments to We honestly, daily, read everything that comes in through that transom. Doesn't leave your mark for other readers, but if there's something amiss or in need of correcting in a recipe, we will address it.

Hi Food Rangers! After nearly a week in Raleigh, I can wholeheartedly recommend any of the following places to people who either live there or are planning a visit: - The Pit barbecue (Pit master goes so far as to breed his own pigs to specially meet his specifications for what makes good smoked porky goodness). - Any establishment by Ashley Christensen (Fox Liquor, Beasley Chicken + Honey, Chuck's) -- Delish, reasonably priced, and some of the best cocktails I've ever had. Great trip, can't wait to go back!

Thanks for the recs. I'm sure Jim Shahin will be all over the Pit.

Hi Rangers! I'm tasked with bringing a potato casserole of some kind to Easter dinner, to accompany ham, asparagus and carrots. I'm trying to avoid run-of-the-mill scalloped or au gratin potato dishes. Any ideas? Thanks!

Slice potatoes, layer in baking dish, dot with butter and shredded gruyere, season every other layer, and pour whipping cream over to just top.  Add more cheese.  Bake until potatoes are cooked. Yum.

Thanks for your story on pupusas today. I have celiac disease and didn't know pupusas were made with Masa. That's really good to know -- now I have a whole new category of food I can add to my lunchtime outings!

Hey, that's yet another benefit of pupusas that I didn't even think about. Thanks for the reminder.

Are the "Top Tomato" recipe winners ever going to receive the Washington Post oven mitts, as promised?

Oh dear, what a mess. We've had TWO go-backs on the mitts, due to printing issues. I promise you'll get them -- before the next contest rolls around. Appreciate your patience.

Hi gang--I'm looking to buy a pre-made kosher for passover dessert on my way to a seder Friday evening. I'm coming from Arlington and heading to Friendship Heights basically. Any suggestions for a place that might on that route? Thanks!

Stop in at Wagshal's Deli in Spring Valley (if you take Chain Bridge it's on the way). I was just there and saw some nice Passover things. You can also order whatever you want. Chatters, other suggestions?

Dorothy Parker, don't I know it. Ms. Dupree, do you have any suggestions for using up those leftovers? We're going to have a big, TASTY, bone-in ham (not country ham unfortunately ... I'll have to work on my in-laws to get them to agree to that next year) and I'm sure at the end of the day, I'll be packaging up a good few pounds for the freezer. What's a springtime recipe for leftover ham? I.e., not making navy bean soup with the ham bone ... Thanks so much!

Sure do.  Use in omeletees, quiches in place of ham, scrambled eggs  - as you can see, ham loves eggs - and no reason why you can't slice it as a sandwich.

Yes, I'm another person swept up in the ramp hype. Do you know when we can expect to start seeing them pop up in farmer's markets? Do you have any favorite ramp recipes? I tend to use them for risotto and pesto, but I'm looking for more inspiration. Thanks!

Ramps have started to appear, as our fab Food Editorial Aide, Becky Krystal, reports in last week's Market Roundup. They're available at the FreshFarm Markets in both Dupont Circle and Silver Spring.

As for ramp recipes, check out Edward Schneider's recent one on the blog. It's an inventive recipe that tamps down ramp's strong aroma AND use its leaves for a vibrantly green sauce.

What is the purpose of bringing soups and stews to a boil before lowering the heat to a simmer, as is typical in most recipes I've come across? I've been curious about this for some time now, thanks!

There are a host of reasons, but one of the primary ones is food safety: when you bring a soup to a boil (approximately 212F), it effectively kills most all bacteria. A simpler reason is that it's a quick way to get a soup to properly simmer, the soup-y equivalent of parallel parking: you take a soup just past a simmer (to a boil), and then back right into the simmer.

Other than the appearance, would it work to have an all-egg white quiche? If so, how many egg whites would you sub for four large eggs?

One egg white is one ounce. An egg yolk is a little less than an ounce.  It won't be as tasty -- but should work. Might be a little rubbery too.  Shame to do - egg yolks are good for you!

On a whim of "healthy" eating, I bought a large bag of whole wheat flour. I used it in a banana bread this weekend and while I didnt' love the texture (it felt dense) it was ok. Now, what can I do with this flour? Can I use it to replace half of regular APF? Are there certian things that it is better for? Many thanks

First, enclose in a freezer-safe resealable plastic food storage bag; freeze it, for up to 1 year.  Otherwise, it'll get rancid.


Next: This link will take you to 49 recipes that call for varying amounts of whole-wheat flour; some of my faves are Almond Pancakes, Basic Flatbread, Blueberry Yogurt Coffee Cake, Classic Chocolate Chippers (whole-wheat flour's good for making a chewy choco chip cookie), Homemade Graham Crackers, Onion Pie and Waffles of Many Flours and Meals. Plenty of recipes do use a mix of AP and whole-wheat flour, so you're onto something there.You also could use it anytime you're coating cutlets or schnitzel or making a crunchy topping for a fruit crisp.

Chatters, what do you like to do with it?

I'm making a quiche for Easter but need to make it Friday. I've made quiches ahead of time and frozen them. The last time I did this I let it thaw for an hour in the fridge and then stuck it in the oven still half-frozen because I was running out of time. It came out tasting good but looking slightly dull. I'm not sure if it's because of the eggs or some spinach. Do you know the best way to do this? Thaw completely, or reheat when 100% frozen?

I just defrost.  Sprinkle with some fresh herbs and it'll look alive. Spinach may have been overcooked, however. 

I'm sure blancmange is delicious, but seeing the recipe, all I could think of was the Monty Python sketch about giant alien blancmange that come to earth to win Wimbledon.

I have, in fact, only been pronouncing it the Monty Python way -- much to the chagrin of the multilingual, multitalented Jane Touzalin. It is tasty, tho.

What are ramps? Also where did this ham for Easter thing originate? We celebrated Easter but never had ham. We usually went out along with most people from church.

Ramps are a seasonal wild onion.  You either love them or you don't.  I'm kinda neutral.  I don't like anything that tends to revisit me. (Ahem).  Ham was put up in the fall and ready to be eaten in the spring, hence it gained in popularity for easter. 

We're looking to upgrade from an old electric range to a new gas model. But, we have a limited budget. Which features would you consider essential, if any, that can help me distinguish "just right" from "over-the-top excessive" or "pathetically insufficient"? We are both enthusiastic cooks, but we just don't have the budget (or even space) for a 48" DCS dual oven, 5 burner and griddle or other similar stove. Thanks for any help insights.

I am very happy with my general electric oven, really.  If you want an oven in one place and a stove top in another that should work too.  You don't need a pricey oven.



Are they supposed to be mushy? I tried making it a couple of times, followed the directions, but each time it cooked in much less time than the 30-45 min the package said it would take and it becomes mushy when try to fluff it. I salvaged it by making a quick lentil soup. Would it help if I toast the lentils first in a little oil?

Lentils cook much faster than that.  Keep chedking after 15 minutes. 

I loved Nathalie Dupree's column. I had forgotton just how gross those canned hams were (my Mother used to buy them before discovering Mash's). I too love the name brand spiral sliced hams, but the grocery stores spiral sliced, done with proper glaze, can come close at a fraction of the cost.

Thanks so much.  I suspect which grocery stores spiral cuts work depends on where you shop. 

I was tasked with making dessert for Easter dinner and have been wanting to make this cake ever since the recipe appeared a few years ago. I would like to lighten up the flavors for spring - keep the ricotta and maybe add lemon somehow? I think a berry would be nice too but I'm not sure how to incorporate it. Suggestions?

lemon rind would be yummy added to the ricotta.  Serve berries on the side.  

Like many people, I store pots & pans in my oven, and I am usually diligent about checking what's in the oven before I turn it on. But last weekend I broiled a pound of bacon and baked some muffins without realizing that my favorite frying pan was on the top rack of the oven. It's a 12" Circulon skillet and it seems to have survived with just a small crack in the handle. From now on, I will only store oven-safe pots & pans in the oven.

PSA o' the day. Can't tell you how many times I've preheated and begun to smell the baking sheets formerly cooling off in the oven.

I'm right there with you in baking leftover baking sheets in the oven. Given my lack of kitchen/counter space, it's always hard to find a place to put the extra hot (and unnecessary) baking sheet.

I live in a VERY small place and have a great tabletop oven. I have a .75 Cu.Ft. GE oven that I bought at Walmart for $50. It's a convection oven/rotisserie/toaster oven. Fits pie & cake pans, 12' frozen pizzas and is all-around awesome.

I'm craving pupusas after reading your article, but they sound too hard to make! What's a good place in NoVA to buy some? There are a number of Salvadoran restaurants on Glebe south of Ballston. Have you guys tried any of them?

I e-mailed my friend and former Northern Virginia magazine critic Warren Rojas, who suggested his faves:

El Zunzal in Falls Church and Esmeralda's in Alexandria

Current Northern Virigina mag critic Stefanie Gans also singled out Cerrito's in Chantilly.

Please recommend a cut of lamb appropriate for 2 people (leftovers OK but not necessary). Preparation recommendations also recommended (method, mostly, but recipes OK). Experienced, unafraid cook but unfamiliar with lamb. Many thanks. Blessings of peace to your families.

You can usually buy as much of a boneless leg as you'd like at the butcher counter. I might go with a rack of lamb...perhaps coat it with a Dijon-tarragon mustard and then fresh bread crumbs, a la Julia.  You cut it into individual chops to serve, like the photo below. Here's a link to about 6 rack recipes we have. Both of them are easy to cook, especially if you have a meat thermometer.

Hi..far away from home on Easter and thought that is no reason why I should not have an Easter meal so am going to tackle a leg of lamb. Problem is I've never made one and all the ones at the market seem quite large. How long will it keep if I cook it all? Can i remove parts and freeze it before roasting the rest? How do I do it? Really appreciating all those who effortlessly put together easter meals now :)

They can be HUGE.  Try half a  boned leg of lamb marinated in lots of dijon, rosemary, a bit of soy sauce for a few hours.   Broil on one side about 15 minutes until crusty and deep brown. Turn. Serve rare, about 135-140, in the thickest part. The thinnest then will be well done.  Something for everyone.

Solder is made of lead! Either purchase a new attachment or find a a welder instead.

I don't think food gets up near where the soldering would be done, do you?

Help. I love ham at Easter. My husband's family traditionally does lamb. So, to get the best of both worlds, I'm considering ham for Easter breakfast, and roast lamb for Easter dinner. We'll be 3 adults and 2 kids, and a ham and leg of lamb will be far too much. Are we better off cooking it all, then freezing leftovers, or should we carve them into manageable chunks, cook what we'll eat, and freeze the rest uncooked, to roast/bake another time?

The good news is that both could/will be tasty, so, chances are, you'll be eating well this Sunday. Even if you split up the two between breakfast and lunch, you may have menus a little top-heavy with meat. My suggestion would be this: pick up a really great-quality ham steak (about 1 lb) and make that for breakfast to satiate the ham cravings. Then proceed on with the leg of lamb which should make a grand presentation and still leave you plenty of leftores.

For the poster looking for something a little different, I make a sweet potato gratin with caramelized onions (recipe originally from TheKitchn) that is crazy good. Highly recommended.

Sounds divine. I was going to suggest the Swedish  Jansson's Temptation. Think of it as a potato side dish with umami. Very rich, and definitely in crazy-good territory. I make it every 3 or 4 months, and have learned to keep tins of those marinated sprats in my fridge at all times.

Try white whole wheat-- it's still 100% whole wheat but a different variety of wheat (i think?) You can get it at TJ's and King Arthur has a version, too. Much better than regular whole wheat - we use it for most things.

Yep, that might be a good choice for next time. But we're helping this person use up what he/she's got.

Loved the blog on "Go Naked BBQ" and the fact that monies go to Wounded Warriors - go, go, go!!!!

As editor of the All We Can Eat blog, I can't say enough good things about Jim's contributions. He understands new media well and knows that, given the Post's vast online readership, he can attract as many readers with a good blog post as he can with a Food section story.

Jim's post on the Go Naked BBQ Show was typical of his efforts: A lot of information and reporting, telling a good story. Check it out.

Which garlic press did the magazine recommend? I used to have an online subscription, but I grew tired of all of the email messages they'd send me. The ratings aren't accessible without a subscription. Thanks!

Cooks Illustrated tested a baker's dozen presses and settled on the Kuhn Rikon Easy-Squeeze as the winner. They liked the short distance between the pivot point and the plunger, which made it easier to operate. Their best-buy pick was the Trudeau Garlic Press, which cost about one-third of the top-rated press but did a good job. This test, mind you, was done in 2007, and models change. As an alternative to a garlic press, they recommended chopping garlic cloves, sprinkling with a pinch of salt and using the bottom of a small ramekin to grind the garlic against a cutting board to form a smooth paste.

This year I want to depart from the dried-out, spiral sliced variety that has become a staple with my extended family. I loved reading the article by Nathalie Dupree, but confess, I'm just as confused, if not more. What is going to be the best bet? We're only 5, so it doesn't need to feed a huge crowd, but we need enough leftovers to make ham salad. By the way, does ham salad freeze well?

No ham freezes very well.But you can try up to a couple of months.   And I'm not surprised you are confused.  It is such a difficult thing to pick a ham.   I like the spiral cut time, but you might just want to buy a totally pre-cooked ham, glaze it and reheat it.  Figure 1/3 a pound bone in, plus what you want for the salad.  That should be a gracious plenty.

Sounds so interesting - am trying to work up a recipe for the contest - hope it comes in time!!!!!

Yes, this year's contest promises to be better than ever, with some new changes. Read about it here. Deadline for submission, incidentally, is May 2.

I read somewhere that at least 1/4 of the yolk is necessary when eating an egg white if you want to harness the perfect protein power that is "the egg." So while I try to limit my cholesterol intake, I always do 3 egg whites and 1 full egg when making my quiches. Not quite as tasty and rich as a full egg quiche, but I still get some of the creaminess the yolk provides (for lack of better term). Plus, I get my perfect protein!

I believe they have found that egg yolks don't contribute to cholesterol.

You helped me decide to make two items for a Passover Seder to which I am invited this Saturday night. I will be making the Glazed Zucchini With Ginger and the Passover Popover Rolls. My question is, hopefully, simple. The zucchini requires Kosher or Sea Salt while the rolls require, simply, salt. As I have neither in my house, would it be possible to purchase only one type and use the same salt in each of the recipes? If so, which would be the best type to purchase? As you can tell, I am a bit of a novice at cooking so I can't thank you enough for these chats. Happy holidays to all!

You can use sea salt or kosher salt for the rolls, no prob.I like Diamond Crystal kosher salt, which is fairly fine and has zero additives. Hag sameach to you too!

We are doing grilled chicken and salmon, asparagus, spinach salad, some sort of brown rice dish and biscuits. Two questions: I was thinking a yogurt marinade for the chicken, can't be spicy. Any suggestions? Also, for the rice, I was just going to do a simple pilaf and then stir in thawed peas. Will that work? Thanks so much!

Your proposed menu sounds great. Yogurt is a wonderful vehicle for a marinade - keeps chicken really moist on the grill and imparts a subtle tang. I would just add in some minced garlic, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, or mint). As for the pilaf, I think your plan again is spot on. Add the peas once the rice is cooked through so they hold on to their bright green hue.

I used some almond flour to make homemade pop tarts the other day and now have about 3/4 c. left. Other than making more pop tarts, any ideas of recipes with almond flour? Also, how long do you think it'll stay fresh?

Freeze your flour right away, tightly sealed.  And, of course, mark it so it doesn't get lost.  

Is there anywhere to get ostrich meat in the area? I've heard it's delicious, and low in fat...

I assume you mean for cooking? You can call and order it at Let's Meat on the Avenue in Del Ray. Some Whole Foods Markets carry it in the frozen case.

I got a bottle of ramp mustard from a vendor at the Old Town farmer's market last year that I have to say was a pretty darn awesome alternative to regular mustard or mayo on a sammy.

Thanks for the suggestion. Sounds delicious. Do you remember the vendor's name?

We just moved into a new rental, and while the kitchen is lovely, the oven is OLD. And possibly broken. I had it set at 450 for almost an hour last night but the oven thermometer I bought (and set smack in the middle of the oven for testing purposes) never inched above 350. I wanted to cry. I need to email my landlord but I'm not sure what to ask. Can ovens get, like, a tune-up? Or am I asking for a brand new oven? I am an avid baker so this is very upsetting.

Yes, ovens can get a tune-up. Or at least a thorough inspection by a repair person. Start by asking your landlord to pay for a service call. It's possible it just needs a new thermostat -- cheaper than a whole new oven. But first, are you positive your new  thermometer is accurate? Wouldn't hurt to ask one of your neighbors to test it for you.

Any suggestions on where I can learn how to make delicious arepas (in the Venezuelan style)?

I don't have the foggiest. Maybe some of the chatters do?

Hi Everyone! My sisters and I will be hosting a baby shower next month for a close family member and would like to do a whole bunch of appetizers and hors d'oeuvres for around 40 people. I want to do a kind of around-the-world theme - maybe something Mexican, European, Asian, Indian, etc and maybe a couple veggie-only dishes... (Things like sushi and cold deli meats, are unfortunately, are out of the question). Any ideas as to what to serve (either to make or order) that isn't TOO difficult or time consuming to make? And any recommendations as to what restaurants would be open to doing a little bit of catering or bulk order? Since we're really not doing a full course meal I was hoping to get enough "hearty" appetizers to fill up everyone's tummy. (Oh and I was thinking of having macaroons as one of the hors d'oeuvres.) Thanks!!

Hello.  You are being pretty ambitious.  Remember, appetizers and hors d'oevvers -- little things - take longer than big things to make as they are so fiddly.  Try making dishes like an overnight casserole or a quiche that can be cut into pieces and served, rather than making all little ones.  Mexican should be easy.


That's actually what I have, the white wheat flour from TJs...sorry! Thanks so much for the link to the recipes, super helpful and I'm guessing I can use the white wheat flour in place of the whole wheat?

Ah, it's a little bit of a different animal -- milder flavor than reg whole wheat, so I'd probably not use it for the Irish soda bread recipe. Still, it is made with whole grain, so the storage advice is the same. 


Thanks, T.J. chatter!

My boyfriend bought a carton of half and half by mistake and since neither of us drinks coffee, I was wondering if you had any suggestions for using it up in cooking. Can it just replace heavy cream in recipes? Any non-dessert ideas would be especially appreciated, thanks!

In defense of your boyfriend, things can get confusing in the dairy area: I've done the same a handful of time. Now, what to do: on the savory side, chowder would be a great option. There's been plenty of talk of souffles on the board today and they, too, would be great.

Thanks for the reccs - I was excited to see a Falls Church option, but the internets tell me they just closed in February! Sad face.

Bummer! Thanks for updating us on that.

He'll love peanut butter on matzah, but I can't send that to daycare for lunch (no nuts allowed). Ack! What do I replace for his oatmeal and cheerios in the morning!

grated cheese on matzah, apples and cheese, sliced turkey? 

How can you tell when flour is rancid? I've had untouched cake flour in the pantry for YEARS. Is it time to toss?

Well, I gave a friend a bag of self-rising flour for biscuits SIX years ago - went to his house recently and it was on the shelf -- unopened - and it was brown with age and it worked.  Whole wheat flour goes bad quicker than white.

What's your favorite thing to do with a leg of lamb? 10 people for Easter.

I gave my answer above - boneless, grilled, because it is so easy to slice.

hi all! it's my dear mom's birthday tomorrow and i'm having dinner at my place along with a cake. mom is a shameless chocoholic, but dad is allergic to chocolate! any ideas on what to make where i can please both parents, but not have to make two cakes? i was thinking of making cheesecake....but i've done that before and am looking for something a little different, and preferably simple! thanks!

You could make a ribboned cheesecake - pull melted choclate through half the cheesecake, leave the other plain. 

At all holiday meals, my late cousin always served a whole salmon -- not sure if poached or baked -- that had thin-sliced cucumber tiered across the entire body, looking sort-of like fish scales. The salmon itself was always delicious -- moist, flaky, flavorful -- and I've wondered if the cucumber had anything to do with it, or was only a decorative touch added before serving. Any idea at your end?

That must have been a heck of a presenation! The cucumber would most definitely have played a role in the wonderful flavor of the fish. Cucumber and salmon are a natural pairing, both intense flavors which play nicely off of eachother. I would guess the cucumber had less to do with the moist, flaky texture of the fish, though. My guess is that your cousin was just a great cook who cooked the fish to the perfect doneness each holiday.

I don't doubt today's salmon recipe is delicious, but I'm hoping you can help me reconstruct or reinvent one I tried once, loved, and lost. It included vanilla extract as an ingredient added before cooking. When I do recipe searches, seemingly zillions of recipes turn up, but the vanilla extract is always for some accompanying dish, not the salmon. Many, many, many thanks in advance!

You'll have to give us a little more information. Was the salmon baked? Poached? Grilled? Cooked in one piece or in smaller pieces? Any other ingredients? Send us an e-mail to with SALMON QUESTION in the subject field and we'll give it a shot.

Hi! Can you recommed an easy Easter dessert to bring to dinner at my boyfriend's parent's? Thanks!

This Greek Apricot Yogurt Parfait's very simple, and tastes delicious. Depending on how far you have to travel, you could take it in separate parts and assemble it just before serving. Glazed Pears in Lemon Grass and Galangal Syrup would be easy to make and transport as well...something a little different. You can serve them with ice cream or whipped cream. Or, since I'm in fruit mode, how about a Plum and Cinnamon Crumble?

Why chance it? That thing is moving at high RPM. It's easy to imagine some stray solder from a sloppy home soldering job dropping into the mix and getting baked into your food. Seems seriously not worth the risk. It can't be that hard or expensive to replace the whisk.

Okay, we're assuming no sloppiness and a lot of cleanup would be involved. 

It's been awhile since I lived south of Ballston, but my memory is you could find a Salvadoran restaurant pretty much on any street corner, any direction you looked. I remember many times swinging into some random storefront on Columbia Pike, and the pupusas were always good. The one across the street from Arlington Cinema 'n' Draft, if it's still there, stands out in my mind.

Okay, thanks for the semi-helpful suggestions! :)

Whole wheat flour gets rancid? What about white whole wheat flour? After how long? I have a bag that I opened about 2 months ago that's been sitting in my lazy Susan - do I need to pitch it?

Under three months is safe.  But pop it in the freezer after that.  Taste it. You'll know if its rancid.

Trader Joe's sells a pretty tasty butterflied boneless leg of lamb. You'll definitely have some leftovers but not an unreasonable amount. My husband usually throws this on the grill and I use leftovers in shepherd's pie. YUM!

How about Hasselback potatoes? You can use various cheeses and everyone will think they were more difficult than they actually are to make. Pioneer woman and food network both have great recipes. I've tried.

The King Arthur Flour website has tons of good recipes using regular whole wheat, and they published an excellent book of whole grain recipes (get it from the library as it costs as much as 4-5 bags of flour). My personal favorite is pita bread. Find any pita recipe and swap out half the white flour for whole wheat. Knead a bit longer and use a bit more water. And be happy.

Who needs em? Here's my philosophy on garlic: 1) It's really not that hard to lightly crush a clove with a knife, peel it, and chop/mince it. 2) If I'm feeling lazy, I'll get out a microplane and grate it instead which takes seconds and is easier to clean than a press (you can sometimes even get away without peeling it - the peel will fall away as you start grating). If I'm making something like spaghetti olio aglio, I've started using the zester microplane which instantly turns it to paste - which then coats the noodles for even more intense garlicky goodness. 3) If I'm feeling really lazy I'll get out the store bought pre-minced/chopped garlic in a jar. I figure any sacrifice in flavor to fresh garlic is the punishment I deserve for not doing #1 or #2.

I like the microplane idea, tho I think I'd run the risk of including parts of my fingers in the minced garlic.

...for answering my Passover recipe salt question. I must admit, I felt kind of stupid asking something like that but since I am preparing for 22 people, I really didn't want to find that I made a mistake!

No questions of that sort here at Free Range. Twenty-two's a lot! Hope you've had a chance to get a head start. I just picked up my brisket today.

I haven’t had dessert during Lent and would like to make a special one for Easter, any suggestion?

I do love a flourless chocolate cake after a long spell of deprivation.  But all the lemon ideas above are exciting too.

Silly me bought a food processor at a moving sale without being able to check if it worked. It doesn't -- I plug it in and ... nothing. It looks like it's probably one of the first models made, from back in maybe the 1970s. Not sure whether it's worth schlepping to a repair store (if those still exist and it wouldn't cost too much more than I already paid) or if maybe a Free Ranger could use it for parts, if you're willing to act as go-between. Both of those options are contingent on me being unable to reach the person I bought it from and ask for my money back, but I assume she's moved by now.

If it starts with a "C" I think they are still fixing them. Worth a call or checking their website.  I love my original one.  Few of the other older ones are worth fixing.


Agreed -- one of the saddest days of my life was when I had to replace my old '70s-era Cuisinart. I had no idea the replacement would be so ... underwhelming ... or I would have tried to have it repaired.

I speak for all pack rats when I shout, "Keep it!" Even if it's completelely unusuable, that retro-stuff looks so cool. You never know: maybe a handy neighbor can turn it into a candle stick or maybe it will sit in your basement long enough that it will become a true collector's item. Then again, my basement is a mess!

My Salvadorean relatives say Dona Azucena's (on Glebe Rd by Rt. 50) is the best.

Thanks for the suggestion.

Bonnie, how was the event with Giada? Will there be a Food Section story about that soon?

How nice of you to ask.  No story; but here's a recap for you. It was just about a full house (700 or so) and a lively hour. She was so gracious with her fans and must have stayed around more than 90 minutes signing books and taking photos. I could tell that people really feel a connection with her and her food.  (She is also teeny-tiny; I pretty much felt like Jabba the Hut sitting next to her.) She says she used to be shy, but I think after a decade on Food Network, she's gotten over that!

When will you update the list? The one linked to from your Market Roundup column is the 2011 list.

Good news: An update is on the way this month. Until then, the 2011 list should be good for most basic info, such as location, Web site, contact phone numbers, etc.

Guys thanks so much for the Wagshals suggestion. One thing--are you sure they're Kosher for Passover? The desserts just say flourless, and as I'm sure you are constantly reminded, that's not enough for some people (my hostess included). Thanks!

Ah, better call them to check. But I believe they keep that in mind.

We'd be remiss if we didn't offer a shoutout for our FOF Lisa Yockelson, whose "Baking Style" won the baking category in last weekend's IACP Awards. I know it was a labor of love for her. Woot!

Please clarify for any folks who might be attending their first seder and taking along a dish to share -- Is it okay to include dairy if it's a vegetarian seder? Thank you.

Yes, it'd be okay.

Bonnie, Would rancid flour smell bad in the bag? Or only after baking with it?

Might not smell bad at all, but it gives an off flavor to baked goods.

to the poster planning the hors d'oeuvres only baby shower....take advantage of the frozen section of ethnic food stores! indian stores have great frozen cocktail samosas, paneer finfers, and pakoras. try frozen dumplings or eggrolls from Asian stores, and little frozen quiches with assorted fillings. make these more "authentic" tasting by adding fresh garnishes with fresh herbs, or whip up your own dipping sauces or add fresh ingredients to bottled ones (like the tamarind chutney for the samosas...garnish with fresh pomegrante seeds and chopped cilantro!). then you can maybe make one or two larger dishes that can be portioned out (little cups of soup or gazpacho...slices of frittata....a nacho bar). have fun!

What's the difference between garlic from a jar and fresh minced? Am I losing some garlic benefits by being lazy?

Yes, you're losing out on flavor, and you're putting additives into your recipes; the jarred garlic includes an acidic solution that is used to kill bacteria.

You're also missing out on the chance to work those arm muscles!

I enjoyed Nathalie's column today. I chuckled when I read the reference to city ham- that's how my southern family distinguishes it from country ham. I had always assumed that it was a strictly in-family joke, but apparently not!

Black and white cookies, the New York kind. They can split them in half and make a wish on them. A few recipes online.

How about a pie? Lemon chess, key lime, lemon meringue -- all very "spring-like". Or of course pecan pie - always easy and delicious. You could also make a pound cake and serve it sliced and toasted with vanilla ice cream - top with berries for Dad and hot fudge sauce for mom.

The brand of the ramp mustard was Bigg Riggs (, but I can't say for sure if it was actually the folks that run the farm I bought it from, or another vendor that just carried it.

Really. and they are much better than new ones. Robot Coupe or Cuisinart both available, and plenty of parts for both. Also, the older KitchenAid food processors are good. Not the current ones.

Doggone it, wish I hadn't pitched mine. The motor was actually fine; a crucial little piece of plastic that nestled it into the base was missing. Everything else was great. Had I only known ... Folks, let this be a lesson!

I don't know if copyright is an issue here--if so, don't post this. But here is a good recipe for a potato casserole known in Utah as Funeral Potatoes. It comes from "Cook's Country" and they keep the name but remove some of the less yummy ingredients like canned soups.

Funeral Potatoes

April/May 2011

Serves 8 to 10

You'll need one 30-ounce bag of frozen shredded (not cubed) hash brown potatoes.


3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 onions, chopped fine

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup half-and-half

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

8 cups frozen shredded hash brown potatoes

1/2 cup sour cream

4 cups sour-cream-and-onion potato chips, crushed


 Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in broth, half-and-half, salt, thyme, and pepper and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheddar until smooth. 2. Stir potatoes into sauce, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat until thawed, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in sour cream until combined. 3. Scrape mixture into 13 by 9-inch baking dish and top with potato chips. Bake until golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Serve.


MAKE AHEAD: Potato mixture can be refrigerated in baking dish, covered with aluminum foil, for 2 days. To finish, bake potatoes 20 minutes. Remove dish from oven and uncover. Top with potato chips and bake until golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes.

Well, you've dredged us in whole wheat flour and fried us until golden. In other words, we're done with another fabulous chat.

This week's cookbook winners are the chatter who called us on our lack of reader reviews on recipes and the chatter asked the question about whole wheat flour. The former will receive a copy of "Chloe's Kitchen" by Chloe Coscarelli. The latter will get a copy of "Pastries" by Pierre Herme.

To get your cookbooks, send an e-mail with your name and address to our Food Editorial Aide, Becky Krystal, at

See you next week.

In This Chat
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is the Food section staff writer. Joining him are interim Food editor Bonnie Benwick and recipe editor Jane Touzalin. Guests: Food writer Tony Rosenfeld and cookbook author Nathalie Dupree.
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