Free Range on Food: Cooking through chemo, Twin Oaks tofu and more

May 15, 2013

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

Greetings, nation, and welcome to Free Range. Hope you are enjoying this week's section, including my tale of Tofuville (aka Twin Oaks), the "intentional community" near Charlottesville where they make fantastic tofu (among other things). And were you as touched as we were to read Kathy Gunst's essay about how cooking (for others and also for herself) helped get her through chemotherapy? Kathy will be our special guest in the chat today; she's a great resource, having written, oh, just 14 or so cookbooks.

We'll have three books to give away to our favorite chatters today: Kathy's latest, the lovely "Notes from a Maine Kitchen: Seasonally Inspired Recipes," source of some of the recipes we published with her essay; "The Adobo Road Cookbook" by Marvin Gapultos, source of today's DinMins recipe for Pan-Seared Garlic Rib-Eye Steak; and "Vegan Secret Supper" by Merida Anderson.

Let's talk. Fire away!

Thank you for this lovely article. I am three-weeks post double mastectomy (chosen before Angelina Jolie made it cool.) I am very lucky not to need chemotherapy or radiation. Our relationships with food are deeply personal, and cooking is helping me heal from my surgery. Understanding this about me, a group of friends gave me gift certificates to Whole Foods...a much better option for me then delivering pre-cooked meals. I really appreciate the food section for focusing on this aspect of living with cancer.

Thanks so much for sharing your story. Here's to healthy living and healthy eating. 


Thank you for the Twin Oaks article! I discovered their tofu a few years ago and love it- not only does it feel good to support a local-ish business (who knows where most tofu comes from!) but I agree the texture and consistency is the best! Re: tofu spring rolls. A suggested variation- a while back I took a cooking class in SE Asia and an unusual ingredient in their recipe were strips (similar size as the tofu strips) of fresh pineapple. It was amazing! Also fresh herbs- lots of 'em.

Yes, I could totally see where pineapple would be nice in the Tofu Spring Rolls. Mango, too! And I second you on the herbs.


17 year cicadas? What with the UN wanting us to eat more bugs, I figure I should try to start with a quality aged bugs before I move on to more pedestrian young insects. Or is that backards? Are the larvae better? Seems a little too Modest Proposal to me......

Hey, it's protein that hasn't put a strain on the environment. We're currently in gathering mode; wouldn't want to foist recipes on you without proper testing. #crunchyfrog

I think all the Modest Proposal talk occurred this month, with the stories about Jamestown.


Eating insects seems wholly innocuous by comparison. As for what cicadas to eat, I prefer a 45-day dry-age bug, which really concentrates the flavor.

Growing up, my mother had this steamer basket that she could put water in the bottom of, put vegetables on top of a tray in the middle, and put in the microwave to steam vegetables. Now that I have more asparagus than I know what to do with thanks to my CSA, I would love to find something similar. I love fresh-steamed asparagus, but since I'm the only person in my household who eats it, it would be much simpler to steam it in the microwave. Thus far, I've been having to McGyver a microwave steamer, which works okay but the vegetables are sitting in the steaming water - which isn't ideal. Any suggestions for where I might find a vegetable steamer that would work better? Thanks!

I'm seeing all kinds online, such as these Klip It and Lekue models from Sur La Table. Would be great to have a recommendation, though. Anyone have a favorite?

I once made a gumbo recipe with an oil based roux. I think it was a 1:1 ratio to flour. It browned just fine, but when I started to add other things to it the roux got clumpy and slimey while refusing to incorporate into the soup (I even strained it and blendered it in, but it would reclump out in tiny slippery globs after a bit). This is the only time I've had a roux failure. Any ideas on what went wrong?

How long did you cook your roux? If you've taken the time to stir, stir, stir and really develop enough color before you add that trinity of vegetables I can't quite see how the lumps would happen.  "Tiny globs" tells me the flour wasn't fully incorporated -- my best educated guess. And maybe the flour was not so fresh?

Got your new cookbook for Mother's Day. At least two of my go-to recipes are in there (Mahogany Short Ribs and Man-Catcher Brownies) so I know it will get good use. Thanks for all your hard work! And a question. Bought some turmeric root. Is it best to just use it in place of the dried ground stuff? Or is there something else the fresh root does best?

You are welcome! 

Re fresh turmeric, I find it has a little tangy sweetness that dried turmeric does not have. And it's certainly supposed to be good for you. You can prep it as you would fresh ginger -- peeled, minced or in thin matchsticks and eat it raw or in a stir-fry or curry. You can wrap it in paper towels and stash in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for at least a few weeks. 


Turmeric ace Monica Bhide says be advised: It stains! She uses the fresh stuff grated, in marinades and salad dressings; stirred into scrambled eggs (that sounds pretty), in stir-fried rice and in smoothies.  She says it's the "difference that makes the difference" in her homemade spice broths....which reminds me, Monica, that I need to invite myself over soon. 

Loved the tofu feature! I'll be sure to seek out Twin Oaks tofu next time I'm shopping. What can I substitute for the eggs in the tofu burger recipe? I'm guessing it's used as a binder. Maybe flaxseed meal and water? I also have Ener-G egg replacer.

Yep, a binder! I'm reaching out to chef Carly at Twin Oaks to see if she's made a vegan version of these (I bet she has), to get her thoughts, but absolutely you could use the Ener-G -- use the conversion factor listed on the box. Another thought would be to add a little peanut butter; Carly sometimes uses cashew butter instead of cashews (I tested it with the latter), and I bet that stickiness would help bind. 1/4 cup or so? But stay tuned and check back -- if I get an answer from Carly I'll report.

I have about 2 1/2 pounds of chicken thighs to cook for dinner tonight. They are the kind with skin and bones and I want the skin to get nicely browned. I was considering cooking them in my pressure cooker, but wasn't sure how I could do so and still get the skin brown. Perhaps pan-frying them first in a bit of olive oil? Or would you recommend skipping the pressure cooker altogether and just roasting them?

Even the folks at America's Test Kitchen, in their new "Pressure Cooker Perfection," say they start by browning the skin-on thighs (to develop flavor) then they discard the skin because it would get flabby -- and add grease -- to the finished dish. 


That said, I'd chuck those thighs into this one-pan-roasted Lemon- and Honey-Flavored Chicken.

Thank you so much for this column today. There are precious few of us who do not know somebody battling with cancer, and the way you described cooking for yourself and others was wonderful. Thank you for your thoughts and courage.

Thanks so much.  Glad you enjoyed it.

What is the best angle for the knife when using a sharpening steel?

20 degrees. To figure that, hold the knife at a 90-degree angle, cut that in half to imagine a 45-degree angle, and then in half again to imagine just a touch over 20. (I don't think the 2.5-degree overage will hurt your knife one bit.)


Just noticed that a package of curry powder says that there are 33 calories per teaspoon. That seems very high, considering that a teaspoon of sugar has only 15. What's in there anyway? The ingredient list just says "curry powder". Is it really almost pure fat? Or was there just a math or translation error at the factory?

Holy moley, what package was that? The USDA-based nutritional analysis program we use says curry powder's a mere 7 cals per teaspoon. 

Hi, I loved the article by Kathy Gunst as well as the one about Twin Oaks tofu. I have a couple of questions regarding their associated recipes. For the pea and lettuce soup I would like to use my home grown leaf lettuce instead of a head of lettuce; would that work and how much leaf lettuce should I use? In terms of the tofu burgers - because of allergy issues I need to find substitutes for the cashews and flax seeds. Could I use almonds and hemp seeds or maybe chia? I'm thinking of serving both the soup and tofu burgers or perhaps the tofu spring rolls (which sound awesome also) for a meal this week. Thanks!

For the pea and lettuce soup it's fine to substitute lettuce from your garden.  I would use about two cups of leaves.

I don't eat milk or milk products. When we lived in the UK and Belgium, I could get plain, unsweetened soy yogurt to substitute for sour cream, Greek yogurt, and creme fraiche. I haven't found it here--plain soy yogurt is so sweet that it ruins the potato salad (the only recipe I tried before deciding that the sugar amounts on the labels were too high for use in savory recipes).

You can find the unsweetened soy yogurt at the Takoma Park Co-op at 201 Ethan Allen Ave., Takoma Park, Md., 301-891-2667. It's the WholeSoy brand, 32 ounces, for $3.49.

Flax and water or chia and water work really well.


Sure you wan to stem your asparagus, but why not roast them at 425 for 20 minutes, or until done, with olive oil slat and pepper. Makes them sweeter, due to the caramelization process, and maybe you can get the others in the house to try them.

You pretty much took the words right out of my mouth. I also like broiling them.

Actually, it's too late because I've already done this, but is there any reason this wasn't a good idea (or is there any reason it may be a good idea)? I put the remains of a beer-can chicken, plus aromatics, on the stove and just before it came to a boil, I realized it would be past midnight by the time it was done and cooled. So I let it come to a boil, quickly cooled it and refrigerated it. Tomorrow morning I'll cook it. It'll be fine, right?

Yep, it'll be fine. Assume you strained it?

I buy it at Whole Foods in Alexandria and have it every morning in my smoothie. It is Whole Soy brand. They have it in little cups or big tubs.

I got one of those silicon steamer baskets that can sit in any pan or bowl. It has little legs on it to keep it out of the water. I got it at Rodman's. Works both on the stovetop and in the microwave.

I have a few pieces of partially-carved roast chicken in the fridge. I've never been a fan of cold meat, but I also can't stand the dry, overcooked chicken that results from reheating. Suggestions?

Here's one: Shred the chicken with your fingers.  Heat a little olive oil in a nonstick skillet and saute some minced shallot. Add a few tablespoons tomato paste and let it cook/caramelize for about 3 minutes, then stir in the shredded chicken, some chicken broth and tarragon vinegar (to taste). Cook to blend flavors and finish with a sprinkling of fresh chopped tarragon. Serve over pasta or alongside steamed broccoli rabe. 

maybe they meant per tablespoon

I guess that almost makes sense. 

The key is to not add water. Asparagus, like most vegetables, has enough water in it to steam properly. I put it on a plate with a light sprinkling of water or lemon juice and cover it loosely (one of those spatter covers). Faster than broiling and bright bright green results.

Since Joe Yonan opened my eyes to grilled cabbage (you have no idea how many people I've told about this revelation), I've been grilling all sorts of things. Last night, I tried bok choy to go with my asparagus and salmon (I get a 'local' box from Washington's Green Grocer, which, by the way, sells Twin Oaks tofu). There may have been some whimpering with joy. One question, though. The tops of the bok choy were beautifully wilted and some had a lovely crisp, but the bottoms of the were tougher. Anything I can do to soften them up before grilling? Tonight I try radishes!

So glad you like the grilled cabbage! It's become one of my staples during grilling season, yes. On the bok choy, I think the key is probably in how you cut it. Did you use a grill basket? If you have one, then I'd be tempted to cut the tougher bottoms into smaller pieces and leave the tops whole.

I have tried Twin Oaks tofu (I'll pick some up at WF tonight) but the best tofu I ever had was stuff I made from scratch from organic soy beans. I was just following directions from the kitchen leader so I don't know the proportions of vinegar and salt that we used. My question is what to use as a coagulant. Is it better (taste/health/texture) to use vinegar and salt to coagulate the soy milk or nigari (I've heard questions of whether nigari is bad for you)? If I should use nigari, where can I get it? If I should use vinegar and salt, how much? Thanks!

You should pick up a copy of "Asian Tofu" by Andrea Nguyen. Really good instructions on making your own. And great recipes that use tofu, too, of course. She answers all your questions much more completely and eloquently than I could hope to here.

Not a food use, but...fresh turmeric root ground into milk is commonly used as a facial mask in India. You need to wash it off thoroughly though, otherwise you're left with a yellow glow for the rest of the day!

Sounds quite daring! 

I've loved your food section for years. It's been the best. However, I find fewer and fewer dinner solutions as you've become more and more vegetarian.

Don't worry -- we've got some meaty sections on the way!

Today's Dinner in Minutes: Pan-Seared Garlic Rib-Eye Steak. Today's Mindful Makeover:  Garlic-Oregano Chicken Caesar Salad. Today's featured online recipe: Catfish Sauce Piquante

While I've had dishes with tofu dining out, and found them reasonably tasty the two times I've tried cooking with it at home I've been unimpressed and turned off. We've purchased the tofu at our local Asian market and I'm wondering if they have a different type. The first batch was in very thin sheets that were cut almost into strips (still connected at the top) The second was in blocks but had a terrible spongy texture. Any thoughts or advice?

There are lots of types of tofus, yes. So many that Andrea Nguyen, as I mentioned earlier, filled a whole book with them. (The cover is a grid of blocks, which look so different it really gives you an idea of the variety. The sheets sound like yuba, tofu skin (which I love), although I've never seen it connected on one side. Of course, I think you should seek out Twin Oaks tofu to see if you like it.

I receive a lovely box from Washington's Green Grocer (highly recommend) every week and during the summer, I'm guaranteed to get a couple ears of corn each week. However, after a month I start to run out of the usual recipes -- roasted/grilled with different butters, salsa. Mexican street corn. Any suggestions for fun and exciting ways to use this fresh corn? Thanks!

Free Rangers! First, I love this chat so much it's so helpful and informative. You guys are great! Between 2 small kids and a hectic schedule I usually read that chat after it's done but today I have a couple of minutes to ask a question. I have an 8 lb. Beef Round tip that I need a good recipe for. I don't know anything about this cut. Is it tender, good for stews, grilling or roasting? Please help! I love to cook and am not afraid to try complicated recipes. THanks!

At 8 pounds, it sounds like you have a beef round tip roast, rather than a steak. So I'd suggest braising or oven-roasting the cut, since it doesn't have much fat in the meat. The methods will prevent the beef from drying out. Here's a basic recipe for Slow-Roast Beef (though only for a 4-6 pound cut, so you may need more time to cook the meat).


But, frankly, eating a braised hunk of beef doesn't sound very appealing at this time of year, does it? You could use your roast (or part of it, at least) for this more delectable Beef and Cabbage Stir-Fry With Peanut Sauce. You'll likely want to freeze it to help cut it into thin slices for the stir-fry.

I'm planning on making this recipe for Flourless Chocolate Lime Cake and was wondering if there is a lower-fat option for the heavy cream in the Margarita cream. Any ideas? It's probably too much to ask to make it non-dairy also. Thanks!

I suppose you could stir the mix of liquor and lime juice and confectioners' sugar into nondairy whipped topping, or silken tofu or nonfat plain Greek-style yogurt....

Today's story on cooking through chemo was warming for me--my step-father has been living with (terminal) cancer for the last six years. We've been blessed with that much extra time, but the first year was absolutely the hardest, when we expected it to be the last all the time. It was my last year of college and I managed most of the cooking as a way of lifting the burden on my family. I remember trying absolutely anything to find him something to eat, resorted to calorie-bomb milkshakes (protein powder, bananas, powdered milk, whole milk, EVERYTHING) just to keep his weight up. I also remember being thoroughly discouraged in my cooking, even while desperately trying to will goodness into what I could make that he would eat. It's marvelous how a pie can carry so much hope and meaning. Thank you.

Thanks for sharing this story. Sometimes it's so hard to interest a cancer patient into eating. There is just no appetite, but other times a pie can make all the difference. It's all about love.


That's for European knives, not Asian, right? Asian knives' blade edges are a smaller angle and therefore require a different angle for sharpening which carries over to using a steel. Also, many Asian knife manufacturers cite using a ceramic steel not a metal one. And using a "steel" really doesn't sharpen as much as it aligns the blade edge to reduce drag and therefore makes the knife feels sharper. Using a steel every / every other time you use your European knife will prolong the knife's sharpened edge requiring less frequent true sharpening. The less true sharpening, the longer the life of your knife.

It's true what you say. Asian knives need 15 degrees -- a little harder to estimate. And yes, what you're doing with the steel is more properly called honing, not sharpening, a knife. You describe it well.

In fact, I believe turmeric has been used (at least in the past) as a dye for textiles. Lovely, intense shade!

I'm having flashbacks to my foray into blood orange marmalade. Delicious, but my kitchen looked like a crime scene and my fingers were purple for days.

Silken tofu in a food processor/blender is a great substitute for yogurt, sour cream, and can go sweet or savory. Am eating a caesar dressing made with tofu for lunch now. Takes the guilt away!

Love the article on Twin Oaks, esp. as my young nephew just became a member of their community. By all accounts he loves it (and the cooking) :-)

Thanks! Glad to hear it.

In today's recipe for the peach pie, if using frozen peaches do you omit the "shocking" process? Thanks!

Yes.  That step is just to remove their skins.  But you need to really, really drain them well and press out as much liquid as possible from the defrosted ones.  There have been some peaches from Chile in grocery stores around here, and I tested this with the frozen/defrosted ones. But I certainly plan to make this pie again once our local peaches come in. 

Is there any reason why oil should be added to pasta cooking water? I only add salt, and had thought that the oil was unnecessary - but my boyfriend disagrees.

Alton Brown, a man whose authority in the kitchen is beyond reproach, says not to use oil in your  water. It prevents the sauce from clinging to the pasta.

Thanks so much for your article on Twin Oaks. As a resident of an intentional community in Washington, I'm always interested in hearing more about other groups. And their tofu may be just what I need to finally get me to eat the stuff. I've never liked the texture and reading your article made me realize that eating tofu that isn't packed in water may address that problem. I see some tofu burgers at a future dinner in my intentional community.

My pleasure. What community is yours, btw?

For the beet green person last week...I also have been swimming in greens from my CSA and I just use the greens the same way I would use cooked spinach - or raw spinach if they are tender enough. I had beet green spanakopita and beet green and artichoke dip this past week.

I have made this my main tofu for years, and it's such a great product - esp the Fine Herb flavor. I find a little balsamic vinaigrette splashed on before baking is all that really needs. I find that even long-term vegans are skeptical that there is a tofu on the market that needs so little prep to be amazing, but they buy a block and are sold for life. I was wondering about their unsweetened soy yogurt; I used to buy it often as well, since it had a more similar profile to greek yogurt than any other vegan versions I'd found (the one that bills itself as "Greek" has nowhere near the protein, just sugar and stabilizers to make it thick). I can't seem to find it anywhere anymore - is it still made?

I don't believe it is being made anymore, at least not by Twin Oaks. I've got an email to them about it, but I don't see any hint of it on their website.

All the suggestions sound great but consider "scraped corn" where you cook the corn and then run the tines of a fork down the rows of kernals splitting them open and then scraping with the back of a fork to get all the goodness. Heat in a double boiler with a little butter and milk and yum. It also freezes really well so you can get a taste of summer in deep winter (add some baby limas and you have my family's version of succotash).

Just wanted to share my fab lunch salad today of romaine, tomato, feta and last night's leftover green beans and roasted potatoes. So delish mixed together!


My father took a trip to Maine last year and loved the flavors and the food. I would love to cook a Maine inspired dinner for him for Father's Day. What do you suggest? I was thinking of doing Lobster rolls and blueberry pie, but I think you could suggest something more original!

Well lobster rolls and blueberry pie are as classic and fabulous as you can get. I would go with lobster rolls but maybe try them on a crsipy baguette with soft butter lettuce. My pea and lettuce soup would be a great starter. How about a rhubarb and strawberry cobbler for dessert? Rhubarb is in season and berries are just starting. Home baked french "fried" wedges to go with the lobster roll. Enjoy!

I need to make a transportable finger food for a very casual outdoor event. Right now I have a mix of greens (kales, chard, spinach, tatsoi, etc.) coming out of the garden and I also have a tub of tofu in the fridge plus plenty of fresh eggs. How can I best go about turning that into a frittata? Or would you recommend something different? Many thanks!

You could follow the basic instructions for my Ricotta Frittata With Spring Vegetables, subbing your greens for the toppings I listed. I think I'd leave the tofu out of this one.

Some say oil helps keep the noodles from sticking together, but if you give it a good stir as soon as you add the pasta and then a few times thereafter, it's not at all necessary.

My husband died from esophogeal cancer. I'm a good cook, but when he could no longer eat what I made, I stopped cooking. I am trying to start cooking again, but the memories attached to his favorite foods remain. Also remaining, the problem of portions--I cook too much food.

I am so sorry for your loss. It's so hard to get interested in something--even something as basic and life affirming as food--when it's associated with grief. I would try some new recipes--maybe even a new tpye of cuisine--to get yourself reinterested in cooking. Cooking for one can be tricky but editor Joe Yonan is a pro when it comes to cooking for one and understanding portion size. Check out his great book, Serve Yourself! Hope you find some new joy in the kitchen.

I SWEAR I did not pay her for that mention. ;-) You also might want to look at Judith Jones' "The Pleasures of Cooking for One." She went through what you are going through.

How can I dress up orzo? I was planning on serving it next to roasted broccoli for dinner tonight.

This Orzo With Smoky Tomato Vinaigrette from Giada De Laurentiis is a keeper.

Orzo With Smoky Tomato Vinaigrette

I'm planning a birthday get-together for next month and thought firing up the grill would be a great way to spend time outside with a group of people I like (before we make cocktails and eat cake). I'd love to grill some lettuce for a salad to go along with whatever I make (I'm attracted to the idea of grilled pizza!), but I don't know what lettuce is best to use, and I can't find a really good salad recipe that uses grilled lettuce! I don't especially love Caesar salads (or creamy dressings in general), but I love salads with lots of flavor and texture. Any ideas?

You want to choose a lettuce that has a good high water content and is not too soft or buttery--something that will hold up to the grill. Romaine works great. Just give the outside a char--don't wilt it to death. Make a cobb with it--blue cheese, pancetta and avadaco with a vinegirette with fresh herbs. It holds up well to a variety of dressings and other ingredients.

Can also be found at Yes Organic Markets thoughout the city.

Put it in a steamer basket over simmering water for a few minutes and it won't dry out while it warms.

Sounds like a decent approach. There are tons of ideas on how to reheat with leftover roast chicken, some good ones here. The best thing to keep in mind: Leftover chicken can never match fresh-off-the-roaster chicken, as we learned in last year's taste test. Don't kill yourself trying to recreate it.


Also: Here are some leftover roast chicken recipes.

How do you "quickly cool" a pot of stock plus bones that's faster than just putting it in the refrigerator? Put it in the freezer for a while? Seriously, I have no idea.

Not sure what the OP did, but the classic (restaurant) way of flash-cooling involves pouring something into a big "hotel" pan so the liquid is shallow. Cools more quickly that way. At home, I do this with a rimmed sheet pan when I want to quickly cool, say, a pot of risotto I want to finish cooking later.

I bought watercress to serve as a side for roast chicken. I've not used it much. I was just planning to toss it raw with vinaigrette. Do you ever use it in salads? What does it pair well with?

Watercress is light and crunchy and delicious. You can lightly stir fry it with ginger and scallions for a great side dish. Watercress salad is also delicious--gently toss with roasted pear wedges, blue cheese and a light vinaigrette. OR watercress with toasted pine nuts and thin slices of crisp apple.

So, Joe, did you diss my comment?

Not at all -- just had some tech problems with it! Added an answer in post-mortem you should see now.

When I was cooking for one, I'd happily make more and save the rest for leftovers. Would either freeze or eat during the week for lunch.

Pot pie! Chicken and dumplings! Chicken soup! And, of course, all the suggestions for shredded chicken.

My parents were in town this weekend and my dad brought 2 avocados for me. The problem is, first I don't know how to tell when an avocado is ready to be eaten, and then what to do with the avocados besides the obvious guacamole or slicing onto a sandwich/burger? I'd like to use them somehow in a dinner entree (pasta dish perhaps?), and I'm lactose intolerant, so a cream based soup is out too..... Thanks!

Do you know what kind of avocados you've got (dark-skinned Hass; Floridian/Caribbean green-skinned)? They're ready when they have just a little give beneath the skin; some folks say if the stem knob comes off easily that's a sign. Once you've cut around the long way to halve the fruit, sink the back heel of a chef's knife into the pit, which should come out easily (another sign). We featured an entree recipe a few weeks back that called for grilling the avocado halves, which I'm certainly going to try soon. I like the various seviche recipes we have in our database that include chunks of ripe avocado.  This soup's nice too. Loved this odd pasta dish -- you'd want to skip the Parm. And shrimp w/avocado's a natural good match: Shrimp, Avocado and Grapefruit Remoulade.

Yesterday, I tried the trick of pre-soaking my cubed tofu in boiling salted water for 15 minutes (from: really worked! The tofu developed a wonderful crust even without any dredging in flour or cornstarch. Just wanted to pass it on given that this week's topic was tofu.

Yep, I like that technique, too. Love the book.

I've never cared too much for Thai food, but I came across a recipe for chicken satay with a spicy peanut butter sauce that actually sounds pretty good - except for the peanut butter. Could I replace the peanut butter with maybe yogurt or some other creamy ingredient? Obviously it wouldn't be a peanut sauce anymore, but I'm OK with that.

I've had success substituting tahini or sesame paste for peanut butter.

also recommend 1 pan 2 plates. typically for 2 but a great book for 2 meals for a single cook.

Fiddleheads for the vegetable?

Fiddleheads are excellent and just coming out of the woods this time of year. They taste a bit like a wild asparagus, but much more unique. Steam for a 1-2 minutes, drain and refresh under cold water. Then saute in olive oil and garlic for about 4-5 minutes. They should still have a good crunch. A Maine favorite. Check my book "Notes from a Maine Kitchen" for more on fiddleheads.

OK, I am not a vegetarian. Nonetheless, I do not understand the prior comment. I find a nice mix of meat and veg foods in the food section. (IMO, too much fish, but then, I do not eat fish.) Is the previous poster a strict carnivore? Because as an omnivore on a budget, I am HAPPY to have veg options that I would never have thought of on my own!

Thanks! I do find it curious when those cooking for a group of meat eaters and vegetarians, for instance, act as if the meat eaters MUST eat meat. Can't a meat eater enjoy a meatless meal every now and again?

How can I make restaurant style/quality crab cake with big chunks of crab and not much filler?

I love making crab cakes and lobster cakes and using only a touch of panko or breadcrumbs, an egg and some lightly sauteed onion or leek to hold it all together. Only add enough breadcrumb to hold it together and not a speck more. You want the cake to scream of fresh seafood!

A great nondairy heavy cream substitute is coconut milk. Let it cool in the fridge, then scoop out the creamy coconut milk on the top, leaving the water behind. It also makes a great vegan whipped cream!

Right you are. 

If I remember correctly, the WP Food section did offer some cicada recipes - I think it was 2 cycles ago, so some around 1987 (yes, I have been reading the WP for a long time!)

I did a quick search in our archives, and your memory is outstanding. We published a story on June 4, 1987, in the Metro section, of all places, written by Dana Priest, of all people. It was titled "Just-Hatched Cicadas, Down the Hatch." I wish I could link it here, alas.

This is totally random but I'm so curious...if food mags plan and test and shoot their pictures for their issues a few months ahead, how do they get access to seasonal foods so early? For instance if a mag has ramps in a May issue but plan and take pictures in March, or beautiful tomatoes for an August issue and take pictures in May.

When I worked at Food and Wine many years ago we worked a full year ahead of time. This years ramps become next year's pictures.

What a beautiful story and an inspiration. It made me cry by end. It just goes to show how much love and thought can be put into food, and be taken from food.

Thanks so much. I cried writing it. (I cry a lot!) Food and love are so closely linked. Thanks for writing!

The pan seared rib eye in today's paper looked really good, plus it seems like a great excuse to get a new cooking toy. It might take some time to convince my boyfriend that we have space in our overstuffed tiny kitchen for an instant lighter, so I was wondering in the meantime if it was really safe to do the match and tongs method. Is there a a particular way to go about that? Not going to lie, I may have set some non-food things in my kitchen on fire before...

Light the match, then use the metal tongs to grab the non-lit end of it. I did not find this tough to do. But if you think it might be hard, then light a candle, grab an unlit match with the tongs, then use the candle to light the match. Even if you drop the match on the stove top, chances are it'll just burn out. 

Just to prove you can't please everyone... I love that more and more of your recipes are vegetarian. In reverse of Meatless Mondays, we try to only eat meat once a week and your food section has become a go to for dinner ideas. Also, most of our "dinner solutions" in other meat heavy publications involve skipping or subbing something for the meat. If meat is what makes a meal a meal for the previous chatter, perhaps they could look at how they could add meat to the vegetarian recipes because otherwise they're missing out on some awesome food. Try looking at recipes as a starting point or an inspiration and tweak them to make it work for you.


My little herb garden is being overrun by a huge oregano bush. What on earth can I do with all of it?

You could make this Herb Mix for Chicken.

Herb Mix for Chicken

Or you could dry a bunch of it.

Other thoughts?

Whole Soy is the brand I tried. The potato salad I made (new potatoes, yogurt, mayonnaise, grain mustard, dill) was so bad we threw it out.

Well, shoot. The Co-op employee said theirs was unsweetned. Could you have picked up the sweetened version by mistake? Maybe it's worth a second chance?

The flour was fresh and I stirred it for over 30 minutes getting a good brown color to it. The smell was great too. Totally mystified as to what happened.

Well, I feel for you in that time spent should yield decent results. What was the next step after the 30 minutes?

I'm staying with a group of 10 at a beach house next weekend and can't wait! We typically "assign" meals but this year decided to just bring different things and have at it. What would you consider staples? We usually bring eggs and bacon for the morning, potatoes, meat for grilling. I'm looking for something "more" this year.

This was probably overboard, but when I went to the beach last year with my husband's family, I brought my ice cream machine and made a few batches for dessert. Wonderful summer treat.

Uh, is this supposed to be a joke? Keep up the good work WaPo, if anything the food section has become more inclusive! I'm an omnivore but appreciate having some additional meatless recipes- maybe this poster should give some of them a try rather than whining about the lack of meat in them.

I'm having some moms over for drinks this weekend and need a few easy but tasty snacks/canapes to put together between kids' homework, dinner, and bedtime. What do you think I could manage? I have no problem Sandra Lee'ing it.

The crostini/tartine route's a pretty easy way to go. Cheeses, chicken liver, veg-based spreads all can be made in advance, and so can the crostini, for that matter. Takes a few minutes to assemble. 

Years ago, I got a horrible yellow-orange rash on my foot. It seemed to come out of nowhere and was a really odd pattern. After several minutes of panic, I realized that a while earlier I had knocked a jar of turmeric out of a cabinet onto the floor. The lid came off. I was wearing sandals with a criss-cross pattern. I had that "rash" for several days, but at least it was funny.

Yikes. It's the Turmeric Chronicles today. 

When my dad was going through chemo, us grown kids would come cook dinner for my parents. I got day five of an aggressive five-day treatment. I thought salmon and steamed cabbage over brown rice with a lovely light ginger-soy sauce would be lovely. Unfortunately, day five was when food-odor-aversion kicked in and me and the pots were sent to the back yard while the house aired out. To the very end, when I'd call, he'd always ask "What's cookin', good lookin'?" Your story brought back (what is now) a fond memory.

So glad it is a fond memory. There is so little rhyme or reason to what food appeals to patients and what disgusts them. I was told by my chemo nurse not to "eat anything I really loved" while in treatment because I would forever associate it with cancer, but it's not true. It wasn't true for me. Luckily.

The place has certainly come a long way since I visited in 1972 with a class studying utopias. They had a special sound system with headphones that let people doing chores listen to music. A few years before the Walkman.

Grab a copy of Deborah Madison's I can't Believe it's Tofu for some really good tofu recipes. Yes, you can tell it is tofu but in a good way.

I recently got some truffle salt and was warned to use sparingly as a little goes a long way. so i did and could barely taste it! the next time i sprinkled over potatoes and used a little more and could taste it but nothing like how rich things are at the restaurants! What am i doing wrong--should i have gotten truffle oil instead? i was expecting to have my socks blown off!

It's hard to say exactly what's wrong. But I suspect that comparing home cooking to restaurant cooking will only depress you:  Just learning the amount of salt, butter and fat (and, in your case, truffle salt/oil/fungus) in restaurant food would likely cause your arteries to harden on the spot.


You'd get more truffle flavor with an oil, but I wouldn't recommend it. I'm not a fan of truffle oil. Can you afford real truffles? :)

Has anyone ever heard of/used to fight cancer: Magic Miracle Broth:

No I haven't heard it or used it. I am generally very skeptical of anything that claims to be a "cure." Good fresh food, sleep, loving friends, and a good Dr were my medicine.

Really enjoyed this article!! I'd read a study some years ago that I can't seem to find in a brief google that had shown in a double-blind test that even expert oenophiles couldn't distinguish terrior better than pure chance - this helps to explain why that might be :) No question, just always interested when accepted wisdom gets questioned. It had always seemed strange to me that people thought fairly minor differences in soil would show up as distinct flavors in wine anyway; roots work on osmosis and only the water soluble elements should be affected.

I have to admit, I was rather amused by the chatter concerned that the Food Section was ruining their carnivorous lifestyle. Me, I eat meat maybe once every ten days, and I read all of the recipes with interest. It's been such a nice change to see a mix of meaty and vegetarian recipes and stories each week, and Joe and the team deserve a lot of credit for the work they're doing! So...thanks!

Appreciate it!

You could try plain coconut milk yogurt, Greek style. It's available at Wegman's & Yes Organic Market.

grilled it, shave it off, and make a grilled corn and mango salsa!

Exactly! My spouse and I are both vegetarians and decided to serve an all-vegetarian meal for our wedding reception. We heard a lot of grumblings from family ahead of time how they'd have to go out afterowrds and get another dinner with meat. But in the end everyone loved the meal, it was great to show our friends and family how delicious and filling vegetarian cuisine can be!

Found it! The Post published cicada recipes on May 6 2004.

Ah, those were very brief blurbs in one of our Extra sections. Not really recipes per se. Just keep in mind we haven't tested these!



Cooking With Cicadas 

The Fairfax County Park Authority newsletter, ParkNews, offers what it calls "tasty" recipes using cicadas:


Cicada Stir Fry 

Ingredients: minced onion, coriander, fresh ginger root, sliced carrots, chopped cauliflower and/or broccoli, water chestnuts, bean sprouts, snow peas and blanched, teneral cicadas (recently emerged nymphs with soft shells). 

In a wok or other suitable pan, heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add ingredients in the order listed above after those in the most recent addition are partially cooked. Serve over brown rice and add soy sauce to taste.

Cicada Shrimp 

Dip teneral cicadas in batter, then deep fry until golden brown. Drain, then serve with cocktail sauce.

Cicada Rhubarb Pie 

Make your favorite recipe for rhubarb pie, including some blanched, teneral cicadas.


I brought up in Tom Sietsema's chat today that nostalgia about food is powerful enough to alter the quality of it in our memory and that I've been deeply disappointed by childhood favorites in my adulthood. Can I get a take from the Rangers et al about nostalgic disappointments (or, alternatively, guilty pleasures that never lose their appeal)?

I know what you mean. My mother's meatloaf was something I adored so much. But when I recently found her recipe and made it...well, let's just say I wouldn't serve it to anyone. Again it's the association of certains foods mingled with great love.

not the healthiest, but mexican corn is sooooo good!

I want to follow a recipe I found for pulled pork that involves a Dutch Oven. However, the meat purchase that inspired this craving was a pork loin roast, and the recipe that seems like a good possibility calls for pork shoulder. Does it really matter which I use, in the end? The recipe calls for applying a rub, then some cider vinegar, and then a few hours in the oven.

You can difinitely use pork loin. It just won't be as rich because the cut doesn't have as much fat.

Why do we only get to see Joe's headshot? Where are the rest of you?

Can't you see us? We're standing right behind him. 

One variety of oregano will take over your garden but a different one won't. I do wish I could remember which is which (Greek vs. Italian?).

I believe it's the Greek variety that has overtaken my garden.

Or maybe it's something called "false oregano."

was there one? didn't see it? not to add fuel to the fire, but look forward to that column.

I made the tofu piece my column this week!

My all time favorite donut was from the Donut Plant in NYC. Have you guys had them before? How do the donuts you've tasted so far compare to those? My husband would be so happy to be able to get me a donut from DC instead of NYC!

I just went to the Donut Plant a couple of weeks ago. Loved their doughnuts, but I think we have a few shops in D.C. that are turning out equally as good rounds. GBD and Astro among them.

Well, you've spooned the sauce over us and sprinkled us with garlic, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, and to the fabulous Kathy Gunst for helping us answer them.

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who asked about replacing the egg in the tofu burgers will get "Vegan Secret Supper." The one who wrote in about taking care of a stepfather fighting cancer will get Kathy's "Notes From a Maine Kitchen." And the one who wrote that s/he wants more meat in the Food section will get "The Adobo Road Cookbook." Send your mailing addresses to Becky at, and we'll get them to you!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading.

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is editor of the Food section; joining us today are deputy editor Bonnie Benwick, staff writer Tim Carman and editorial aide Becky Krystal. Guest: cookbook author Kathy Gunst, who shared with us her experiences of cooking while undergoing chemotherapy.
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