Free Range on Food: We're here to answer all your cooking questions and discuss the perfect vegetable stock, eating well on a SNAP budget, cocktail kits, this week's recipes and more!

May 13, 2020

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions. Submit a question by clicking on the 'submit now' button at the top and bottom of the chat.

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Past Free Range on Food chats

Sometimes favorite dish can get be elevated with a simple addition. That’s the case with Ali Slagle’s Spiced Bread Egg in a Hole, in which the bread is fried in spiced-up olive oil. Simply a good idea.  

 

Joe Yonan gave a straightforward bean dip a boost by tossing in unexpected surprisingly complementary ingredients including “fiery harissa and cooling mint.”

 

Both of those recipes prove that an open mind in the kitchen is a valuable tool. As does the recipe I made this week: Spicy Chocolate-Milk Simmered Chicken. The concept had me skeptical, but the cookbook author was so confident, I had to try it. It’s quite good.

 

We’re always in the market for a good cookie recipe, so Becky Krystal took on the enviable task of testing Doubletree’s Chocolate Chip Cookies, which are full of nuts, too. Verdict: Delicious.

 

If you’ve been seeking ways to make a deep, rich vegetable broth or stock, Nik Sharma might have the answer. His secret is a mushroom tea that adds depth of flavor.

 

Emily Heil checked in with Leanne Brown, author of “Good and Cheap: How to Eat on $4 a Day,” to get some tips for those struggling financially during this pandemic. Brown shared a Potato and Leek Pizza recipe as well as useful tips. Her cookbook is available as a free download in English and Spanish.

 

Becky is a busy working mom of a toddler, so she’s always looking for ways to get a delicious, thrifty meal on the table quickly. She came up with a smashing breakfast burrito, with tips on how to freeze and then reheat it. 

 

Becky’s also keeping fresh fruits and vegetables on the table with CSA boxes from local farms. If you’re new to that game, as Becky was until recently, she has strategies for getting the most from them. First one: Unpack everything when you get it.

 

If you get lovely fruit in your CSA, consider a fresh fruit compote to put atop a simple, old-school custard that Nourish columnist Ellie Krieger just loves.

 

We all know M. Carrie Allan is a pro at making her own delicious cocktails at home, but due to the pandemic she is reticent about running out to pick up this and that, and so she tried a batch of cocktail kits and discovered they can take you for simple to complex.

 

If you’re practicing your social distancing with just one or two others, Kari Sonde has a batch of small-yield recipes, so you can avoid leftover-itis.

 

Mary Beth Albright has a suggestion for those who want individual treats: Mug cakes. 

 

And, file under celebrities are just like us: They are stuck at home, so they are cooking, with many big-name folks making videos in the kitchen. Emily rounded up a varied batch. Have you tried any of their recipes? Any successes to report?

Let's talk about all of this and anything else that strikes your fancy.

I made at least two of your recipes last week that were really great. The No Knead Cinnamon Raisin Bread was absolutely delicious and is going to be my new go to home baking gift for friends. I was dubious that 1/8 tsp of yeast would work but with enough time (18 hours for the first rise and about three hours for the second) it did rise and it turned out wonderfully. It's a batter bread which makes it easier and just make sure you get to a internal temp of 200. I had to cover the top for the last bit of baking but the crusty bits on top were really the best part of the bread. The other recipe I enjoyed was your Chocolate Ice Cream base. Taste like a super chocolaty fudge brownie with a silky smooth mouth feel. Spectacular. Extra kudos's because it's the perfect amount of base for my Cuisinart Ice cream maker. Thank's for making Wednesday a special day and for providing such wonderful recipes.

Aw, that's so great, thanks for the report! Very happy to hear that about the bread -- I actually have a story publishing online Friday on Voraciously about how you can get away with very little yeast, as long as you let the dough rise for a long time. This is the perfect example.

And yes to that Chocolate Ice Cream Base! It's the reliable Jeni's recipe and makes a perfect canvas for your add-ins of choice. In my case, I went with a s'mores variation.

Slow-Rise, No-Knead Cinnamon-Raisin Bread

RECIPE: Slow-Rise, No-Knead Cinnamon-Raisin Bread

Chocolate Ice Cream Base

RECIPE: Chocolate Ice Cream Base

S'Mores Ice Cream

RECIPE: S'Mores Ice Cream


So with grocery delivery things happen, and now I have a bag with 20+ stems of celery. I doubled the celery in my bolognese. I can double the celery in my soup. For one day I can reach into the past and have ants on a log. But I still have a lot of celery to deal with. Ideas, please?

We've got you covered! Celery lovers over here. Five ideas to help you use up that stash: three salads, a stir-fry and a dip.

Note that the first one, one of my favorite salads of all time, mentions that the secret is combining conventional celery with Chinese celery, but trust me: You can use what you've got here, and it'll still be fantastic.

Celery, Walnut and Pecorino Salad

Celery Salad With Blue Cheese Dressing

Celery Salad With Roasted Mushrooms, White Beans and Feta

Celery and Pork Stir-Fry

Cashew Green Goddess Dip

I want to thank you profusely for recommending Olga Massov's olive oil and orange challah. It was the challah of my dreams. Perfect texture. It'll now be my household Friday night challah.

Thank you so much for letting me know! This really warms my heart, as it's a challah I make for my family every Friday. I'm really thrilled you're pleased with the recipe!! Keep safe and healthy!

Here's a link to Olga's recipe, if you missed it last week: Olive Oil and Orange Challah. Haven't tried yet, but I plan to. Soon.

I asked for two kinds of tortillas on my last grocery delivery and instead of getting none (which is what was happening), I got both. So I'm thinking breakfast burritos. What's your favorite filling? I've got egg/sausage/cheese, but am wondering if roasted red peppers from a jar will be too damp. Other options?

Did you see my recipe?

I think if you thinly sliced or diced the peppers and dried them well, sure, that would work. Pickled onions are always good. Cilantro, definitely. A smear of harissa really perks things up. Pickled jalapenos!

I guess you could say we've all probably stuck our heads in the sand until now, but the conditions in meat packing plans are abominable, bordering on slavery. (I thought that was outlawed in the 1860's.) I'm lucky in that I can afford it, but I've made the decision to get my meat from farm/local butcher sources. I'm not as concerned about the animal's diet as the working conditions of the people preparing my food.

Thanks for this -- Could you email me at joe.yonan@washpost.com? 

I can never make good rice. I even got a rice cooker and I'm having the same issues -- the outside gets mushy before the inside is cooked. What am I doing wrong? I rinse my rice until the water runs pretty clear, but is it possible that it's absorbing too much water in the process?

Once again, my colleague Becky Krystal to the rescue: A better pot of rice is within reach with these 5 tips 

See if these tips help you with your next batch. 

To tell you the truth, I've never been able to use a rice cooker. I can only cook it in the pot!

How rice cooks depends on the ratio of the two types of starches (amylose and amylopectin) present inside the grain. This is similar to cooking with waxy and floury potatoes . If you're using long-grain rice like basmati, it contains a higher percentage of amylose which is why they hold their structure very well. Short-grain rice varieties like sushi contain a higher amount of amylopectin and little to no amylose which swells earlier during cooking and leaches out from the seeds which makes the final rice sticky. When cooking long grain rice, I wash the grains in a fine-mesh sieve till there the water runs clear to get rid of any starch dust that might arise by friction from the grain rubbing against each other on storage, I add enough water to a height of 1 inch above the rice in the pot, bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, then the reduce the heat and let it simmer till it is completely evaporated. Another tip is to resist the urge to stir the rice as it cooks, that will reduce the risk of the grains breaking which also releases starch from the granules inside. 

I recently made meringue and have eight egg yolks left. How can I use them? I find a "gold cake" using egg yolks kind of heavy. I tried freezing them once, but the yolk was on me, because they did not survive the freezing well. Something savory would be great.

Something savory is tougher, but there are options. This Chorizo Carbonara will use up a few.


Or, maybe an Egg Drop Soup like this one.


Of course, ice creams or custards are the first thing that popped into my head.
Butterscotch Custards with Coconut Cream uses 8 yolks.

Frozen Sabayon With Fresh Berry Compote uses 6 yolks.

 

Super thanks! Celery, celery, celery and walnut salad (love that version of the name) will be on its way soon!

I attempted to make the graham crackers. It is not an easy project to do with a 2 YO. The dough did not come together, it looked like wet sand instead of a ball. I added a little bit more water to get it to come together. And I think I did not roll it out thin enough. It was pretty hard when it was finally baked. The kids like the taste but complain about the texture being too hard. Probably will not make it again.

Sorry! But the recipe didn't say it would be a ball. I did say it should start to come together into clumps. It's not a typical wet cookie dough. And since they're graham crackers they are supposed to be on the hard side, although the bake can go as short or long as you want as long as the dough is not raw. But if it wasn't the recipe for you, then that's the way it goes. Thanks for trying it.

Marion Cunningham's Graham Crackers

RECIPE: Marion Cunningham's Graham Crackers

Hi! I have a bag of chickpeas. I'm used to just using chickpeas from a can, so I'm excited to be a bit fancier with my chickpeas. I'd like to use my instant pot to make them. Do you have any recipes/tips? Do I need to soak them first if they are getting instant potted?

No, you don't have to soak them first. (Even if you're not IP'ing -- although there are reasons why you might want to soak, it's not a requirement.) 

Put them in the pot with 3 inches of water to cover, add 1 tablespoon salt (I swear), half an onion, a few garlic cloves, a bay leaf or two and, if you've got it, a strip of kombu (dried seaweed), which helps soften the beans and reduces flatulence. Cook at high pressure for 35 minutes, then let the pressure naturally release. If they're not quite ready (try several of them to make sure they're tender), return to pressure for 5 minutes at a time, manually releasing each time to check them. When they're ready, take off the lid, turn to saute, and boil them for 10-15 minutes to reduce/concentrate the broth.

Help!!! The weather is supposed to be nice the rest of the week and I'm in a grilling slump. We love to eat outside and I've mastered the burgers, and brats no problems and can grill any meat to a perfect doneness but I'm getting bored with season chicken on the grill, season beef and need something with more pizzazz. I've done a lot of marinades however none of them really seem to penetrate the meat so it ends up tasting like same ol boring chicken breast. HELP!!!! (only thing I won't make is anything with a lemon flavor).

Try lamb, it really benefits from grilling. To make the flavor really get into the meat, if you haven't already tried this and this works better with yogurt and dairy based marinades (like the ones used for tandoori dishes), let the meat marinade overnight in the refrigerator. The thinner, the cut of the meat, the less time you need. The fat, dairy proteins, and lactic acid in yogurt, kefir, and buttermilk tend to be gentler on meat proteins. 

Why did folks turn towards yeast bread Vs the easier to make quick breads? I have been making cornbread and other quick breads.

I feel like it might not be about easy. It might be more about putting in the effort of yeast. I could be wrong!

They're also totally different things!

Hi Rangers, I've been limiting my food shopping to very early morning at one grocery store instead of also going to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. I've been ok with getting most things at the grocery store, although a lot of things are more expensive and/or slightly lower quality. But hey, it's a pandemic and we all have to make sacrifices. The only problem has been yogurt. Pre-pandemic I loved Trader Joe's European Style plain nonfat yogurt in the 32 oz tubs. I tried a Greek yogurt made in Vermont from the grocery store but I really don't care for the thickness of Greek yogurt. Last week I bought the store brand plain nonfat yogurt. It was nasty. It actually looked blue and, being thickened with pectin, had the mouth feel of milky jello. Bleh. This weekend a family member was going to Trader Joe's and offered to get me things, so I got 2 tubs of the yogurt I love. But now what should I do with the nearly full nasty yogurt? Is there anything it can be used for? Maybe some sort of marinade or in a baked good? I know... garbage in - garbage out. But I do hate to pour it down the drain. I appreciate your help.

You can definitely use the yogurt as a marinade. I'm pretty obsessed with my colleague Becky Krystal's butter chicken (we actually just call it Becky's Chicken in my house). While the recipe calls for whole milk yogurt, you should be just fine using what you have on hand for the marinade.

Hi Free Rangers! I accidentally ordered two BAGS of lemons instead of two lemons in last month's grocery order. I decided to use several to make preserved lemons for the first time. They were ready this week and wow--what a delicious, unusual experience. I'd never had them before and I love them. I'm going to make some hummus this week and with chopped preserved lemon on top. I think they'd be bangin' on a charcuterie board too. Finally, I made your pork chops with mustard sauce and they were fantastic! Thanks for being here and keeping us distracted.

My whole kitchen smelled like lemons when I tested the syrup and marmalade recipes in Daniela Galazra's story: Capture the sunny freshness of lemons with syrup, marmalade and preserves  

Her  lemon sugar and salt recipes as well as her fresh lemon syrup and lemon-rosemary marmalade recipes are great. We have so many ways to use lemons in our Recipe Finder, including preserved lemons, lemon confit and roasted lemons.

I'll never let one go to waste again.

I made the Rajma Dal (Indian kidney beans) from the book. It calls for 3 large red onions. At the store, the large red onions were about the size of rutabagas. I couldn't believe how big they were. I figured that wasn't what you had in mind as large onions so I bought and used 2. But it still came out extremely oniony. After many complaints (some of them mine) The Washington Post has gotten much better about including weights in their ingredient lists. It sure would have been helpful if you had done the same in your book. Just sayin'.

Hi -- guess what? You did the right thing! This version of the dish is pretty oniony, indeed.

When I start with a new variety of rice in the rice cooker. I put in a little less water than normal. When it finishes I check it - and if it's not quite done, I can add a bit extra water and set it to cook again. Then I have to watch it and manually turn it to warm. This is helpful for the transition - no soggy rice as at worst it's undercooked and that you can rectify.

Last week I looked up the cookbook about how to eat well on $4 a day, and it said that all is not lost when your greens are no longer super fresh. Does that apply to romaine lettuce? I got a big bunch about a week ago to make sandwiches, and now I have about half of the bunch left but it's sad and wilted. Is there anything I can do with it, or is romaine a sandwich-only kind of thing? Thanks!

I think most salad greens can be revived in cool water, which you then want to use pretty promptly.

I love romaine as the base of a Caesar salad!

Retro Caesar Salad

RECIPE: Retro Caesar Salad

And did you know you can grill it?

Burnt Romaine With Avocado and Cotija

RECIPE: Burnt Romaine With Avocado and Cotija

I have a recipe for yeast-based plum bread that calls for a dark colored rimmed baking sheet. I don't have one and have no place to put if I bought one. Is there a trick to get my silver baking sheets to work? I have silicon mats and a pizza stone if you think either would help. Thanks!

Sure, putting your baking sheet on a pizza stone would definitely help generate more heat underneath. Good thought. The other options would be to bake the bread longer and/or at a slightly higher temp. Typically when using a dark cake pan, for instance, people suggest reducing the oven temp by 25 degrees. I suppose here you could try the opposite.

The recipe in today's paper made me pull out my smitten kitchen cookbook to see the black bean recipe you adapted, which led to general browsing and long story short cheddar breakfast buns are now proofing on the counter. Which is not a black bean burrito but I don't have tortillas or a chorizo replacement in house anyway (unless... Would tvp work if I seasoned it up, or would the texture suffer from freezing/thawing??)

By tvp, I think you mean textured vegetable protein? I don't have much experience with it, but I absolutely think if you seasoned it a la Joe's tofu chorizo -- although you have to hydrate it first, yes? -- it would work great. I'm guessing the soy chorizo I used shares a lot of DNA with what you have.

Black Bean Breakfast Burritos

RECIPE: Black Bean Breakfast Burritos

I don't use much milk, and have found that freezing and thawing fresh milk doesn't really work well. I've never used dried milk, and wonder if I can freeze the packages to keep them longer and not going rancid? Thanks

I have an unopened bag in my freezer right now, it stays good for at least a year and I haven't noticed any off odors and or textural effects when I cook with it (I usually use it to make a some type of Indian desserts). If you have a bag that's open, I recommend splitting it up into smaller bags based on how much you think might need. As long as the moisture is kept out, it will last a while.

For various reasons I am no longer able to go to grocery store or Farmers Market. I will have to buy everything online. I love cooking with fruit for example mango jalapeno chicken. How can I substitute with dried fruit?

If you go into the our Recipe Finder and search by ingredient, such as "dried apricot" or "dried cherry" you'll get lots of dish ideas.

Nourish columnist Ellie Krieger recently shared this recipe, which features dried fruit: Fruit and Nut Energy Bars

Not sure if this is exactly what you're looking for, but Becky created this guide: Freeze-dried fruit is the colorful, concentrated flavor boost your baking deserves

This dish uses dried mango and dried cranberries! Really tasty and easy to make.

Mango-Cranberry Chicken

RECIPE: Mango-Cranberry Chicken

In general, if you're using dried fruit, you want to make sure it's kind of a moist cooking environment so it plumps up. So curries are a great option, or even other skillet braises. Those are the times when it makes the most sense to swap in dried for fresh. As with dried herbs, I'd say use less dried if a recipe calls for fresh since it is more concentrated and will rehydrate while cooking.

I've saved the liquid from cooking chickpeas but it's thinner than canned chickpea liquid. If I just cook it down to a similar consistency, will it be ok to use? Thanks much for all the substitutions, tips, recipes and chats!

One of the reasons I call for canned chickpea liquid in recipes that use aquafaba is that it is the right consistency for whipping up/etc. (Also, I like to add salt and other seasonings to beans when I cook them, and I don't want that in aquafaba.) 

So you might have to undertake a little trial/error here: Yes, cook it down and see how it goes. (It might also have a little more pronounced chickpea flavor than canned.)

I can't find any whole wheat flour anywhere. When making bread, I would normally use about 1/3 WW flour with 2/3 all purpose. I have wheat berries, and both red and white quinoa on hand, and a food processor. Is there any way to use some amount of these as a substitute for the WW flour? Other alternatives?

Grind up those wheat berries to get WW flour, yes! People do it in their food processor, high-powered blender, even coffee grinder! Here's one take.

Normally, just make buttercream frosting, but I'm trying to expand my skills. Do you know what kind of frosting Baked and Wired uses on their cupcakes and cakes. Thanks for doing these chats.

According to their website, they use buttercream. 

Might it work well in soups calling for escarole?

Staying at home for weeks had led me to reorganize my liquor cabinet and I found both opened and unopened bottles of liquor (whiskey, rum, etc.) as well as liqueurs (creme de mint, Pimms, vermouth, etc.) that are years, even decades old. I assume that bacteria can live in a liquid that is 25% alcohol or more but that doesn't mean that it is drinkable. Are they safe to drink? Any advice would be appreciated.

Hey there! For spirits (such as whiskey, vodka, rum, etc.) they will keep indefinitely, usually without changing in the bottle unless you see issues with leakage, etc. Liqueurs are a little more complex -- generally they will also last a long time, but may lose some brightness and zip over time, flavors can fade or change a bit. Best guide is your own nose and palate -- even if they have faded a bit, they are unlikely to be dangerous to drink, so if you taste them and they taste fine, they are likely fine. Exceptions on the liqueurs being long-lasting front: cream-based liqueurs like Bailey's and other creams, if they've been open for a while, DO NOT go there. Puke-tastic! (Note that "creme de whatevers" are not usually cream based, so most of those will fall under the general liqueur stipulations.) Even if they're unopened, I don't think I'd mess much with a decade-old bottle of cream-based liqueur. Vermouth: if it's sealed and unopened, it's likely OK unless cork has rotted or something. You can generally think about vermouth like wine in terms of spoilage, though it will have a somewhat longer shelf life and opened bottles should be stored in the fridge. If you've got decades-old vermouth that's been opened and just sitting out, it's likely a no-go.

Hi guys! Posting early because I'm not able to participate live. I ordered 1 serrano pepper in my grocery delivery, and got 30. It's not a huge biggie, as we like spicy foods, but even we can't go through 30 peppers before they go bad. Any recommendations on what to do to preserve them? Thanks!

When I have extra peppers -- never this many (!) -- I like to chop and freeze them in small portions, so I can toss them into dishes anytime. You can measure them out by tablespoon or ounces. Or you can freeze them flat in a sheet, so you can break off pieces and use as needed. You might find this "How to freeze fresh vegetables while preserving their best qualities" helpful
Or, you could consider pickling some. Check this guide out: Canning Class: Pickled peppers can just chill 
You can search our Recipe Finder for lots of recipes that feature the peppers, such as his one. 
Fire-Roasted Tomato, Onion and Serrano Salsa.  

I'd also suggest making a quick hot sauce or sambal - pulverize the peppers with some shallots and garlic and cook them down with some honey and it will be heaven.

My library has had Joe's book on hold for me since March 21, but it closed before I could pick it up. They emailed today that I could now schedule contactless pickup. What's the first recipe I should try? I have dried great northern, black and tarbais beans. Also French, red and brown lentils, dried split green peas and chickpeas in a well stocked pantry. Thanks in advance.

Great! Well, there are recipes for pretty much all of those varieties in the book (except the split peas), so you've got lots of options. But why not start with the cover recipe? Garlicky Great Northern Beans and Broccoli Rabe Over Toast. Simple, and shows off the flavor of those cooked-from-dried beans.

I'd like to try making ricotta. However, the recipes are all over the place: Ina says 4 c whole milk and 2 c heavy cream. Epicurious says 2 QUARTS (8 c) whole milk and 1 c heavy cream. Others use variable amounts. (Generally consistent use of acid and salt.) All supposedly yield "about 2 cups." This doesn't seem possible when the ingredients vary between 6 and 9 cups. What do you think/recommend? ALSO - some say it will keep 2 days, others say a week. Can excess be frozen?

You should try our recipe in the recipe finder - I hear it's pretty good. I make mine with lots of heavy cream, a lot like Ina, plus lemon juice as an acid. I get about 2 cups ricotta, that sounds about right - and I use whey from making it as a liquid in smoothies or baking bread (in place of water). 

Rangers, my boyfriend's daughter (with whom I am sheltering) has requested "mochi" for her birthday dessert this week. The internet makes it sound like mochi would be too difficult to make from scratch and I'm better off buying it at an Asian grocery store. I have never had mochi, so I'm not sure of the texture, but I'd love to make a traditional layer cake and garnish it with mochi in some way. (Something that I can stick candles into.) Do you have any recommendations? Thank you!!

Ask her what way she'd like it! Does she want mochi ice cream? Mochi as it comes in little squares? Baked Butter Mochi like the image below? Mochi cake like this one?

As for texture, it has a soft, chewy texture. I can't think of anything to compare it to, but it's really yummy. 

 

Hi all, This is the week(end) I finally make your english muffins! I have a question about flours to use: I have AP, bread flour, and 100% whole grain sprouted wheat flour. Would the latter work just like regular whole wheat for these muffins, or should I lean on bread flour here? The sprouted wheat flour is something I'm new to, but it has the same protein content as the regular King Arthur whole wheat flour, so I'm probably TOTALLY overthinking this. (Can you tell I really want these to turn out?) Thank you all - this pregnant lady REALLY appreciates all of your work, especially now!

King Arthur says: "Use Sprouted Wheat Flour in any recipe calling for whole wheat flour, or substitute it for up to half the amount of all-purpose flour." So there you go!

Hope you like the recipe, and congrats on the pending arrival. And thanks for your thanks. :)

No-Knead English Muffins

RECIPE: No-Knead English Muffins

Good Afternoon!! I recently ordered up some "breakfast cookies" from my milkman. They were meh. But they made me realize that I'd actually prefer something savory and not sweet. I can't eat nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, or eggplant) and both tomatoes and peppers seem to be popular in the search results I find. Do you have any recipe suggestions or even a base that I could start experimenting with? I'm not sure how to get the bars to maintain their shape without some sweetener to make them stick together...

I love Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks (and QuitoKeeto), so take a look at this recipe by her. Seems like it could be a good place to start. No nightshades here!

I want to make pomegranate margaritas (I have tequila, pomegranate juice, fresh limes), but I don't have orange liqueur or orange juice. Just how important is it? What could I substitute?

I think you can pull this off! It'll just be more purely pomegranate. What I'd plan for is needing to adjust for sweetness--a curaçao or triple sec not only adds orangeyness, but sweetness, and depending on how tart you like your margaritas, you may want to have a little simple syrup on hand to compensate for the lack of the orange stuff.

I did see your recipe, and now can't believe I forgot about the beans. Thanks!

Beans! Always beans!

There's also always the rice route, but honestly, I don't love it in my burritos.

Why do recipes involving vanilla beans say to scrape out the seeds?

The seeds, which look like a sticky paste (they're tiny!) are what gives vanilla-flavored things their intoxicating flavor. Those tiny little flecks you see in good ice creams, creme brulees, and other lovely vanilla desserts, are vanilla seeds. But don't discard the beans after you scraped them out, use them to flavor other desserts and when THAT'S done, use them again and again: in bottles of vanilla extract in jars of sugar, etc.

Not a question - just a big thank you for the Fast Focaccia recipe. I found flour and yeast after weeks of searching and this was the first recipe I tried. It is so delicious - I can't stop eating it! Might try mini pizzas with the rest of the dough that's sitting in my fridge.

Yes! Thrilled to hear that. People LOVE that recipe. And the dough does make fantastic pizza.

Fast Focaccia

ARTICLE: One no-knead dough will give you focaccia, pizza and cinnamon rolls for days

It's been years since I made them. But I started to say it's time. I used an old beat-up and battered Better Home's cookbook and they turned out perfect. My trick is using frozen blueberries in the batter. You also can't mash up a frozen berry. The heat doesn't cook them so you get a real blueberry taste.

Love that frozen-berry trick!

Hi! Re: the butterscotch custard recipe that you shared, does it really have to be baked, or could it be eaten post-refrigerator as pudding?

I tested this butterscotch custard, and yes you need to bake it in a hot water bath -- otherwise you're going to have an uncooked custard on your hands. It's really delicious though -- I can't recommend it enough!

I was buying organic food before this, and felt it was worth the cost to have premium products that store a lot longer. However, now the cost of organic is way too high at my grocers. Guidelines for buying when you can't afford organic?

If organic is a huge priority for you, you may want to look into farmers' market pickups/CSA programs. 

I'd agree on the farmers market idea, but also perhaps switching to what is in season right now as spring is upon us. If you are looking for longer storage also looking at the frozen section for things like spinach and berries is great. 

Help! During this time of quiet, I've been trying to get all my recipes written on cards and organized into a recipe box. Great idea, but I have So Many Recipes and not nearly enough space. How do you folks collect and organize your recipes? I have thousands I've sent to myself in email (hundreds from these chats alone). I have 400+ in my Epicurious recipe box. None of that counts all the cookbooks with sticky notes for recipes I want to try some day. I'm also afraid of spending tons of time adding recipes to a piece of recipe software that won't let me change platforms or export to other software. (Been there; done that.) I'm in a high risk group for Covid-19, so I see myself being mostly a (thankfully teleworking) hermit until a vaccine gets deployed. I'd like to make the best use of my time for this project. What would you suggest?

 I know what you mean, I have a lot of cookbooks and newspaper and magazine clippings lying around my house. I started to catalog my recipes and even ideas for my recipes in Notes (MacOSX), that way they still online in the cloud and are easy to search. Notes also lets me catalog my recipes by type and it is less fussy. 

I wish I'd read the Food section before breakfast this morning, 'cause now I'm Jonesing for the spiced fried toast with egg, and the scramble I made seems blah by comparison. The thought of fried toast also reminded me of tuna melts, my favorite sandwich at a long-ago beach carry-out. Please tell me how to make them at home! Thanks in advance.

I could only find one Grilled Tuna Melt recipe in our archive of recipes. I made a variation recently:  Mediterranean Tuna Panini
(Was so tempted to share Mark Warner's viral tuna melt video here :-)

Love to hear if anyone else has a favorite tuna melt recipe.

Finally, in case anyone missed it, here is Ali Slagle's Spiced Bread Egg in a Hole recipe. So simple and good.

 

I sympathize with the poster who got more celery than anticipated. I recently ordered what I thought was a baby / personal size watermelon that turned out to be a full-sized monster - and I am single and live alone. Luckily I love watermelon and didn't have to resort to desperate measures. (I was imagining watermelon chip cookies?) Suggest those ordering online read descriptions and amounts very, very carefully.

Lol, you can do everything right and still get the wrong thing. I did mention I definitely ordered 17 individual bananas and got 17 bunches, right?

I also have had the opposite. Not realizing I am ordering the world's smallest unit of cheese! 

As for watermelon. I love to cut up half and freeze it in cubes then use it to make heavenly watermelon slushies. My daughter is a watermelon fanatic so we have a lackluster one right now. When they are not so flavorful I like to blend them and add a bit of honey and vanilla extract.

I've made several batches of the no-knead bread. So convenient! I need some more ideas on what to make with it. I'm burning out on pizza and focaccia. Thanks!

Well, you did see the story also talked about calzones and cinnamon rolls, right? If you use 2 pounds of the dough, you might be able to get away with baking a loaf or round boule in the Dutch oven. Or breadsticks and fougasse. Or a savory monkey bread.

My eighth grade grandson has to complete a “remote science project.” He has asked me to help him make bread. We plan to do a sandwich loaf, no knead focaccia, and challah - the idea being to test out the reactions of the flour and yeast in different formulations. Can you recommend a good resource that would give him an overview of yeast, gluten, and all the other cool science that goes into breadmaking? We’re excited about working (and eating) together but I want him to get a good understanding.

There are lots of great bread books out there, but if I had to suggest just one that includes the overview you're requesting, it would be Jeffrey Hamelman's 2012 book "Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes."

I'm sending this recipe to my niece, who told me that she learned to re-label her freezer bags when she discovered that she had been simmering chicken thighs in, not barbecue sauce, but chocolate pudding.

That is quite the coincidence. Hope she likes it. Here's the recipe, if anyone missed it.

Spicy Chocolate Milk-Simmered Chicken

Lettuce and pea soup! Avocado and pea soup! Turn that lettuce in to soup! That's my go two when lettuce is past its prime.

So half way through the second week, I definitely have fewer options. I made stock from a garlic rotisserie chicken carcass over the weekend. It is pretty garlicky so not a neutral flavor at all. Any suggestions as to what I should do with it? I also have roasted broccoli and a head of regular cabbage and a head of purple cabbage. The rest of the fridge doesn't look very compatible with this. I could go get some cauliflower or other veggies, but I'm really trying to keep the outside contacts down to a minimum. I also have three big onions.

I feel like that stock would be really nice in a risotto, or just use it to poach more chicken or even vegetables.

Your cabbage, onions and broccoli sound like the basis of a good stir-fry. I hesitate to make any recommendations because I don't know what else you have in the way of condiments, etc.!

I'm having some in my cream of salmon soup this week, and it's great. Provides a nice crunch.

Hi. I recently ran out of vanilla extract while making a cake. A quick internet search suggested using maple syrup as a substitute. I am interested in getting your opinion - ounce per ounce maple syrup costs a lot less - especially here in New England. Is maple syrup just to sub as needed or a replacement to vanilla extract. Thanks.

Huh. I've never heard this! Honestly, I don't quite see it -- I mean, I love maple syrup, but in the amounts that vanilla extract is used, I can't imagine maple doing the same thing. But you know what, you won't know until you try -- and please let us know how it went! Other ideas: Almond extract and rum!

My sister did this with cheesecake. Big no from me. 

Thanks so much for answering my question last week about storing my homemade vanilla extract! I just ran out of the store-bought stuff, so just in time. Now I've got another storage question. I froze some leftover canned coconut milk, then a couple of weeks ago, I moved the jar into the fridge to thaw, then promptly forgot about it. In general I'm guided by "does it smell weird? can you see fuzz?" and it passes those tests -- although it wouldn't be possible to see white fuzz on white coconut milk, so you see my dilemma. Toss or try?

I'm pretty generous when it comes to coconut milk. If it looks and smells okay, go for it. I've definitely left some too long and can attest that you can typically tell when it's done for. I suspect you'll need to shake it or reblend it.

Usually if it tastes sour, I don't use it. In the past I've noticed when I bake with coconut milk that's gone bad, the cake won't last more than a day and there is a stringy texture that arises from the rancid fats. 

Is it possible that you guys will ever do a section for diabetic cooking? So many of your recipes look tasty put are not diabetic friendly at all. Maybe if not a section perhaps mention a way to reduce the carbs or the fat of a given recipe? Just a thought so much pasta and rice. What would you suggest to use as background for sauces or curries that are not pasta or rice. Can't do cauliflower rice my husband hates it, he is the diabetic I am cooking for. Thank you

We can keep this in mind as we offer ideas for substitutions in recipes.

One tip I'd have for you is to read Ellie Krieger's weekly Nourish column. It is not specifically geared toward those with diabetes, but she is a registered dietitian and so her recipes generally are lower in carbs and fat.

You can find her recipes here.

I made a big pot of pasta last night and the water is still sitting in the pot on the stove. Is there something else I can use the water for, including to cook more pasta? You and others have written so often about the goodness of pasta water, so I'm thinking there must be an additional use for it. Would it add flavor or body to other recipes, or just make them starchier -- not that starchier is necessarily a bad thing. Or is it?

Pasta water is wonderfully starchy as you acknowledge so in addition for using it in the making of a pasta sauce it could be a great thing in a soup or stew you want to make a little thicker. Like in a broccoli cheddar or something where you might be melting dairy into it and you don't want to use cornstarch or flour. It would add body for sure.

Is the general advice against thawing and refreezing just about texture, or is there a real food-safety danger? I have some tofu that I put in the freezer unopened, now it's been hanging out in the fridge for a while, and because I'm not going through it very fast I thought I could just crumble it up and put the crumbles back in the freezer. I suppose freezing and thawing again might pull out more moisture, but in the case of tofu, that's a good thing!

Becky wrote a great piece on tofu recipes, tips and tricks. In it, she noted that:
"Freezing tofu causes the water to expand, leaving behind pockets of air that allow more marinade or sauce to penetrate. Tofu that has been frozen also gets a little closer to the texture of meat, with a spongier, chewier consistency. (You can freeze any type of tofu for long-term storage. Your other option is to keep leftovers in the refrigerator for up to a week, submerged in water you change daily.)"



This morning we published A Guide to Using  Your  Freezer. 
It addresses food safety as well as other tips. For example: Regarding microorganisms: "Growth is stopped when food is frozen, but microorganisms are not destroyed. When food is thawed, they become active again and multiply; food must be cooked to be safe."


I have several recipes I had book marked that I was excited to make that require instant yeast. Problem is... I only have Active Dry and I can't get instant right now. Plus, I have a TON of active dry, so might as well use it. Can you help me with how to sub them? Some of the recipes have the yeast being added directly to the dry ingredients, but I'm assuming I have to do some proof stuff first. Another recipe has you add it to warm milk but doesn't include any time for proofing, so I don't know how long I'd have to let it sit. Any help? And is it a 1:1 substitute?

Please hop over to my story on baking subs!

 

 

ARTICLE: A guide to baking substitutions for flour, sugar, yeast and more

In short, yes 1 to 1 swap. Just proof the active dry in a portion of liquid, warmed, first. Follow the timing on the package, but usually it's 5 to 10 mins.

I hate beans, because they make you well...you know what. I grew up in the 50s having beans and hotdogs every Saturday for lunch, but haven't had them since I've been cooking on my own. (I also never made beans for my kids, which in retrospect may not have been the favor I thought I was giving them.) But now, with our newly designed lives, it's obvious I should be cooking and using beans. Where do I start? Will Beano get me through it?

You should start here, of course.

As for flatulence, Beano helps. Kombu (dried kelp) has the same enzyme, so it helps. So does soaking, so does pressure cooking. So do some traditional additions from various cultures, such as epazote, hing/asafoetida, ginger, cumin, and more.

And so does starting slowly and being a little patient. One study showed that when people who hadn't been eating beans added 1/2 cup a day to their diet, their reports of flatulence decreased by up to 75 percent after a couple of weeks.

Just had to chime in as I read the article As Pantries Overflow. . . and read the sentence how Elysia Mana said she missed wandering around the aisles in the grocery store. I would get so many ideas on what I wanted to cook. Now I have to use a delivery service and decide what I am going to cook before having the luxury to roam the aisles and make decisions. . . . ah the good old days.

Does anyone have a good recipe for huevos rancheros (vegetarian) they'd like to share? Thanks!

I have a super simple recipe on my website. Huevos Rancheros is a great place to experiment or substitute with little downside since so much goes well with eggs. Mine features black beans. 

My best tip for reheating rice or pasta is to put a handful of baby spinach underneath before microwaving. It provides just enough steam so the dish doesn't dry out, and a bonus serving of veg!

Well, getting pretty deep into the back of some fridge drawers, and the good news is the things I'm finding there are still fine to eat. The bad news is I'm not sure how to use them. I have some port wine cheese spread from DiBruno's, which is fine on crackers, but too sweet for me to use in the ways I would usually use up cheese-related spreads (e.g. throwing a few spoonfuls into mac and cheese). Any fun ideas?

Not sure of the exact consistency you are talking about here but a sweet and cheesy something is great on roasted asparagus or other roasted vegtables. You could met it in the microwave to pour it over or plop little hunks of it in and let it turn into melty sweet pockets of cheesy goodness.

I've always heard people say you can freeze bread, but I'm very wary of this because when I've put bread in the fridge, it just dries it out, I find. Is this just me being picky, or are there tips on how to freeze bread so it doesn't dry out? I would love to freeze bread because we an rarely finish a loaf before it goes bad. And if there is a good way to freeze it, are there any tips on thawing it?

It's totally fine to stick in the fridge--when I bake bread, I slice it, put it in a freezer-safe ziplock, and just pop it in there. It reheats beautifully in the toaster! It won't dry out. 

Is it possible to make your english muffins on something other than cast iron or a griddle? I have neither and my kitchen really can't devote the space to another single use baking implement (cast iron pan) and my waistline does not need the added encouragement to make sourdough pancakes (griddle) Yes theoretically you can use a cast iron pan for other things but I assure you, I won't. Am I destined to buying english muffins at Bread Furst or can you suggest a different implement for the cooking part?

Well, yes, I would say the cast-iron pan is much more than a single-use implement, but if you know you won't use it, then I guess there's our answer! I suppose you could use a regular stainless skillet, the heavier the better. You may not get as much puff or even cooking, so if you have your heart set on it, I guess you can give it a try. I think I've probably heard from folks who tried it and been okay.

Hello! Has anyone made Jamie Oliver's chicken in milk? The recipe calls for two lemons but then mentions using the lemon peel. Do I only use the peel or toss the two peeled lemons in there as well? Thanks for any advice!

Yeah, that is unclear on his site. But other places that have run the recipe -- the Kitchen, NYT -- specifically say the peel/zest. So I would go with that, makes the most sense based on the recipe.

Just wanted to share a funny story from our house on Mother's Day. My kids made me delicious apple pancakes, but the bump in the road was that not only did someone mistake tablespoons for teaspoons -- putting in tablespoons of baking powder (!!) -- they also decided to triple the recipe when they saw the yield was "3 pancakes" -- not realizing each pancake was pan-sized. Luckily my husband intervened before they mixed the wet and dry ingredients, and I asked him to set everything aside and I would take it as a personal baking challenge to use it all up without waste. And I have! The mixed eggs and milk went into muffins, and I combined the dry mix (flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon) with oats, maple syrup, butter and raisins to make scones. As for the apple pancakes served to me in bed, they ended up making them with mix, and my husband added some rum for me, so it was really a win all around.

This is amazing and probably the same kind of thing that would have happened in my house. Lol.

Follow-up on baking bagels, pizzas, and other yeasted breads with gluten-free flour. Fundamental problem is that every brand of gluten-free flour has a different mixture of ingredients, so need to find recipes specific to the brand you have at hand -- recipes are not interchangeable across brands. But, the commonalities for yeasted breads are (1) one egg for each cup of flour; (2) 1 teaspoon of baking powder, perhaps more for larger recipes; (3) 1 teaspoon of Xanthan Gum powder per cup of flour, even if the flour already has Xanthan Gum. Check the recipes specific for your brand of flour, as your mileage may vary.

Thanks for your insight. Good point about formulations being different by brand.

And made the coriander gravlax for friends brunch several times. For daily meals, the eggplant pilaf and granola get regular use (among others)

This is wonderful! Thank you.

Got five in my CSA share, four of which were at least baseball sized. I looked for recipes and saw cooking (boiling/simmering) times ranging from half an hour to two hours! I left them whole because I figured the skins would "slip off" easier that way, and all the instructions I saw said the skins would "slip off" -- I had to use a paring knife. So I have 2 & 1/3 cups of beet puree in the fridge and am trying to sneak it into a chocolate cake (Jamie Oliver or Martha Stewart or any other recommendations?) -- but how do I treat beets in future? We just never eat them.

First, you can repurpose that puree into this fabulous soup from Olga. 

You can then check out this roundup of beet recipes here

There's so many ways to treat beets! Don't be afraid to just slice them uncooked and pickle them! Or shred and dress with a vinaigrette. 

I went into a rabbit hole looking at all the different cocktail kits and they all look fun! I'm normally a craft beer person rather than a craft cocktail person, but I'm feeling the need to branch out. Carrie, do you have any advice for things I should be thinking about as I decide which kit to pick or just go with whatever looks fun? I'm a good cook, so I'm not worried about something being more or less complex, and I have an adventurous palette, I'm just not sure where to start. Thank you!

There are such a good range of options out there, cocktail kit-wise. For example, the Sourced one makes the whole thing super simple; others are a little more complex. Personally, I really enjoyed the one I worked with from Shaker & Spoon, because it was a little more baroque and made me feel more engaged in the process. Plus I got one that had a lot of flavors that were pretty unusual in a drink (chili, Szechuan pepper, sesame oil, etc.) Really depends on how much you want to engage in the making part -- and also how many drinks you need! The kits tend to produce drinks for ranges from 4-12, so I'd consider how many people you're locked down with (or how much you want to drink on your own).

Unfortunately, I've developed a digestive condition and must avoid tomatoes, citrus and spicy foods. There are so many interesting recipes in the Washington Post and elsewhere. I enjoy cooking and would appreciate suggestions for substitutes, for example, in vegetarian chili and other dishes by Joe Yonan. What works for others with similar conditions. Thank you.

So I'm assuming that the reason you need to avoid both tomatoes and citrus is because of the acid, yes? The difficulty is that's exactly the the flavor that is hard to replace -- without something else that's acidic, you know? If that's not it, and you're able to use, say, vinegar, then that will be your best friend for the first two options. For tomatoes, I'd think about something like roasted red peppers with a little red wine vinegar to taste. For citrus, it depends on the fruit, but apple cider vinegar would be a good go-to. (Maybe with a little sugar in the case of oranges.)

Now, for hot spices, I'd just instead go a little heavier on the warming spices -- such as cumin, cinnamon, coriander. 

I bet Nik has some more ideas!

I am so sorry to hear this. Acid is a tricky taste to replicate but there are some ways you can do this. You can "trick "your mind by using certain aromas, for example if you want a citrus flavor but cannot use the acid, use the zest from the fruit. This of course, depends on the dish you're making. Salt and sour tastes work with each other, you could add add a little more salt. Sometimes, when I make marinara (I have acid-reflux), I add a pinch of baking soda to reduce some of the acid. With spices, I recommend you opt for spices that give aroma, black pepper is less hot than chillies which might help and chemically they're different. Check with a physician before you make any changes to your diet. 

Grabbed a grocery store bakery French loaf that is perhaps the blandest white bread ever. The crust is more stale than crispy (even fresh), and the inside is flavorless. It was useful for sopping up a bit of sauce, but what should we do with the rest? It is not good enough to be used for toast, which was the initial leftover plan.

Make breadcrumbs, since it's already stale all you need to do is grind it down in a food processor, store, and use when needed. 

French! Bread! Pizza! Cook's Country just shared one that looks awesome.

Or french toast or bread pudding.

I can vouch for that butter chicken recipe. 10/10 will make again (and again and again and again). If you want to go all in, I got my fenugreek leaves from Spice House.

Another satisfied customer, thank you! I was thinking I really need to make that again myself.

I know this is off topic for today, but I really need help with my Spanish tortillas. All the instructions and videos say cook until firm on the bottom and edges and then flip, but I end up with a runny gooey egg mess all over the plate and then an uneven blob when I get it back in the pan. I’ve tried cooking it over low heat for a long time, but even then there’s uncooked egg on the top that turns into a mess. How do I get that perfect round disc? And I do not want to resort to the broiler, although I have!

What recipe are you using? Tortilla Espanola, is simple and delicious, BUT does take awhile to make. I usually flip it SUPER carefully using a large plate over the pan, and then slide it in. But it takes at least 20 minutes for low heat cooking before I do that. However, in our recipe database, there's a recipe for a no-flip Spanish tortilla - so give it a go!

Not a question but Nik since you're here I wanted to say hi. I got a copy of season at the Smithsonian talk you did with Joe last year (two? Passage of time has become meaningless) and it's become one of my favorites. I made sweet potato Bebinca for both Thanksgiving and festivys

That makes me so happy to hear! It is such an easy dessert. Hopefully, if things get better, I might come down later this year for my new book. 

For years, I've read that chlorine in tapwater can thwart the growth of bacteria & yeasts that comprise sourdough (after all, killing organisms is why tapwater is chlorinated) but the word used to be that leaving water in an open container overnight dissipated the CL But where we live now, the water is treated with chloramide, which does not dissipate on airing. I confirmed this reading all the water dept. reports. I don't want to keep buying spring water to make bread (though maybe that's why SD now works for me.) My questions: (1) do you know of any reliable sources to confirm whether lingering CL interferes w SD development? With bread dough once starter is stable? With slow rise yeasted bread? I've read conflicting reports & flour is too precious now for experiments. 2) Does any counter top filter remove chloramine? Brita site ambiguous; other sites wanted to sell me a $$$ reverse osmosis filter. Not expecting you to have answers at your fingertips but guiding my research would be appreciated. Many thanks for helping us as we adapt our foodways to this new, strange reality. Diana

I live in an area with hard water so I know what you mean, even the salts in hard water affect breads and fermentation. You are right that chlorine will affect growth of bacteria and yeast but it also affects gluten formation. Cake flour, for example is intentionally chlorinated to improve  the delicate crumb texture in cakes. I live in an area with hard water and I used a Brita filter and compared it to bread made with distilled water and didn't notice any differences in my bread texture or rising times and since then, I've been using my Brita filtered water.

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/0844/ce09d0171c6c9a3edb38229ffa77d0f24360.pdf

I'm looking at a UK recipe for a chocolate cake, and it calls for simply "dark chocolate." I can't figure out what that means -- unsweetened? Cadbury's dark candy bar? Do they have "baking chocolate" there or do I just find a bar of something like Cote d'Or dark?

It probably means bittersweet or something with a higher percentage cocoa 60% of so. If they aren't being specific with the percentage it is probably flexible enough to withstand whatever you can manage. Darker chocolate is usually better for adding flavor in baking since you will already be adding sugar and dairy to the rest of the cake. Good luck!

I'm finishing off a bottle I got in the Caribbean some time ago and I'd like something equally potent and delicious. Penzey's?

I'm gonna be honest, I've only ever used Costco at home for years, and it's worked for me! Maybe not quite as exciting as your Caribbean one. :)

Mine is the one I make at home. I haven't bought vanilla extract in 10 years or so. I use either vodka or brandy. But last month, because I didn't have either on hand, I used inexpensive bourbon as my base. I just have a medium size jar, put a few vanilla beans in there cover with the booze and let it sit for a month. Daily, I just shake my jar a little and that's it. :)

The last time I was at the supermarket I impulse bought a box of chocolate pudding, not realizing till I went to make it last week that it was instant rather than cooked. I made it as directed, which includes refrigerating, and poured into four custard cups. I happen to like the skin that forms, so I left it. The first two cups were fine. I didn’t eat the other two for several days longer, and when I did I found that the pudding under the skin of each had lost its thickness and was now thin chocolate soup. Any ideas why that might have happened?

The store-bought instant puddings rely on starch for thickening. After starch thickens and is left to cool, it will slowly "weep" out water by a phenomenon called syneresis. Basically, the starch gel that formed and holds everything together in the pudding, is releasing water over time. Usually tapioca is a better option for chilled desserts and thickening ice creams because unlike cornstarch, it does not weep. 

The Serious Eats yogurt recipe is practically fool proof. If your subpar yogurt has live cultures, you can add two tablespoons of it to a warmed quart of milk (recommend whole) and get a whole new batch. It seems to depend more on the milk than the yogurt how it turns out.

Agreed. I just wrote about homemade yogurt a few weeks ago, and it's so, so easy, and the taste cannot be beat! I include both, the stovetop/oven and Instant Pot methods.

I can vouch for this recipe. It was the first yogurt that I ever made and now I don't know that I'll ever go back to store-bought.

A good bourbon works for me, not exactly vanilla, but nice

Always!

I got a provisions delivery from a local restaurant and there are SO many good things in it we definitely won't be able to get through it all in a timely fashion! The focaccia in particular is fantastic but I'm not sure how long it'll stay that way. Like other bread, is the smart move to go ahead and freeze in sliced portions? If that's going to degrade it too much to eat out of hand, I'll go ahead and freeze it in cubes for a future savory bread pudding (once we can entertain again, probably!)

I generally think bread freezes well! I might be more inclined to leave it as whole as possible to limit the amount of surface area exposed to potential freezer burn, but if well wrapped and used in a timely manner, sure, go ahead and do slices.

I'm out of cumin but have cumin seed. Can I use the seed as a substitute?

Yes, absolutely, and if you toast it in a pan until fragrant and grind it in a coffee grinder, it'll be the best-tasting ground cumin you've ever had.

I discovered tuna melts at the long defunct Chesapeake Bagel Bakery. It's an open-faced sandwich that isn't grilled--just my own recipe tuna salad on bread (or bagel if I have one) with a piece of cheese on top and toasted until the cheese is melty. My first one ever used muenster, so that is what I prefer, but any cheese will do. You could probably leave it open-faced and grill it instead of toasting. Just a thought.

I think they're still around, yes? Not that long ago I went to the one in Arlington!

Can excess be frozen?

I tried it once, and it didn't go over well :( You can, however,  use it to make meatballs (they'll be so tender) and freeze those! Hope that helps!!

I lieu of store-bought chocolate milk, what recipe do you recommend for the chocolate milk in the chicken recipe? I don't want a ton of leftover chocolate milk.

I have used Hershey's cocoa powder. I dissolve a couple of tablespoons in a little bit of hot water, less than 1/4 cup. Then, I add hot milk to that for a full cup. You can make it lighter. For sugar, you can add granulated sugar  or confectioner's sugar, to taste.

Millets could be alternatives to rice and pasta as background for sauces/curries. Certain varieties of millets are low/medium GI so might be a good sub. I'm not a nutritionist though so the OP would need to read up more.

My mom sometimes makes millet roti. Super tasty.

I’m wish to prepare a bread recipe that requires 1cup of milk. Since I’m self quarantined can I use canned evaporated milk? Also, I think that you should know, when I retrieve the Post each Wednesday I go directly to the Food section as I know I will experience joy and you NEVER disappoint. Thank you!

I actually would not do this. Evaporated milk is, well, evaporated. A portion of the water has been cooked off, meaning the sugars, fat and proteins are more concentrated. Cook's Illustrated actually tested a 1 to 1 swap of evaporated for regular milk in Parker House rolls: "The Parker House rolls made with evaporated milk emerged from the oven more stunted and much darker than rolls made with regular milk."

Joe - I wonder if you could "rate" the heat level of your dip? Since the harissa goes in at the roasting stage, it would be easier to scale it up when tasting vs. scaling it back. Looks delicious & I'd be shooting for "medium" spiciness. Thanks!

It's probably medium if you're dolloping on more harissa at the end, or medium-low if you're not. (Of course, all this is subjective, isn't it? And what I rate as medium others might rate as "very"!) I'd say do it as written, and dollop to taste at the end...

Harissa-Roasted Carrot and Bean Dip

Even though I sometimes cook enough for several days' meals, I almost never use a whole jar of any sauce in one cooking session or, if it's added at the table, one meal. Please imagine an array of sauces for various foods and cuisines -- pasta, Indian, Mexican, Chinese and others, like British chutney, that come in glass jars. What's the best way to keep the unused sauce fresh in the 'fridge? If fuzz develops on the neck and only on the neck, can it be removed and can the remainder of the sauce then be used? I hate to throw out food, especially if it's a nearly-full jar! For some reason, this hasn't ever been a problem with ketchup or mayonnaise.

If the sauce is a puree, freeze it in a ziptop bag, it takes up less space. Even some of the chunkier sauces will be fine. Also, if you lay the bag flat and freeze it, it will also be quicker to thaw.

(Yeah yeah I know that’s an oxymoron) I have about a pound and a half from two produce boxes in the past two weeks. I can’t eat enough at one time; too many in one sitting doesn’t agree with me. I would freeze them but I simply don’t have room in my freezer to accommodate the flat sheet pan it would take. Every recipe I like requires at least one or two things I don’t have. I’m looking at the soufflé in the Recipe Finder, but I don’t have any kirsch or jam (and I don’t like jellies and jams so wouldn’t be looking to make that either). Would the soufflé still be tasty without?

What about roasting the strawberries with a little vanilla and sugar? You can then save them in a jar and use on top of yogurt? I would just do at 300 degrees until they're chewy and their sweetness is concentrated.

It'll be too hot to run the oven in summer, so we're making batches of waffles now to freeze. Also love your English muffin recipe, so plan to make and freeze several dozen of those. My question: Should I toast the frozen waffles and muffins directly in the toaster oven, or let them thaw first? 

Waffles you might be able to get away with going straight into the toaster. For the muffins, you're not going to be able to split them frozen. So I'd probably let them thaw first. Or at least thaw briefly whole on bake and then split and toast.

In order to reduce the frequency of my trips to the supermarket, I stock up, but can't do that with cheese, unless there are better ways to store cheese, whether hard or semi-soft, than I am familiar with. Any suggestions? And can cheese be frozen?

I've had success freezing cheeses like cheddar, but I would not freeze soft cheeses...

My grandmother's recipe: Boil whole, peel, grate using the larger holes, and dress with vinegar and oil. Very tasty and not totally beet-y. (Most other pickled beets I've found use sugar, but I don't care for it.)

Dice or julienne cooked beets for a green salad garnish. Especially delicious with bleu cheese dressing, or vinaigrette + feta.

Because in normal life it wasn't hard to find the time/energy to make a quick bread, but never enough of both to tackle yeasted things

Definitely one factor for a lot of people.

The recipe is something I want to try, but wondering if it will work, or what modifications are needed, for chicken breasts. We may have frozen thighs, but I know we recently purchased a bunch of chicken breasts and they are ready to cook. If not, we are stuck in the breaded, seasoned mode for the breasts, and other recipes are welcomed!

I think it would work with other pieces. If you have bigger pieces, like the breast, you'd want to cut them in half so that they will cook properly. Just be sure to test them with a thermometer to makes sure they reach 165 degrees.

Last week, I made a (half) batch of your big dough, and turned one portion of it into pizza with some meat sauce out of my freezer and miscellaneous cheese out of my fridge (jack + parmesan). It was so delicious, I think I'm just going to do it again.

Yes! Just having the dough around makes it so easy to throw things together with whatever else you have.

That's so great to hear! They shut down so many stores on the western side of NoVa that I thought they'd gone under.

YES they're still around, love them so much. They have a spot in McLean.

Oooh looking forward to it- looks like it comes out right around my birthday so I know what I'm getting myself! :D

Hi all,
Thank you very much for chatting with us. We appreciate you spending part of your afternoon talking about food and cooking.

Thanks to our guests Nik Sharma and Leanne Brown for joining us this week.

Hope to see you next Wednesday at lunchtime.

In This Chat
Ann Maloney
Ann Maloney is the Food team recipes editor.
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and author of "Cool Beans." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a staff reporter for Food and writes a weekly column on casual dining.
Kari Sonde
Kari Sonde is the Food editorial aide.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer at the Post.
Nik Sharma
Nik Sharma is a food writer, photographer, cookbook author, and recipe developer based out in Los Angeles, California. He wrote about the science behind the perfect vegetable broth for The Washington Post.
Leanne Brown
Leanne Brown is the author of "Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day."
Olga Massov
Massov is a Food team assignment editor.
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