Free Range on Food: Ballpark food, red wine vinegar, C-CAP and more

May 02, 2012

Today we'll be talking about ballpark food, red wine vinegar, C-CAP and more.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Howdy, Free Rangers! 'Fess up:  Have you partaken of the AYCE ballpark food so deftly vetted by Tim Carman? Want to discuss vinegars or bbq sauce? (Today's the deadline for those sauce recipe entries.) We're pleased to have culinary scholarship winner Jeanine Williams and C-CAP founder and Chairman Richard Grausman with us  (from my story), as well as Valerie Strauss, who's gotten back in to touch with her stash of red wine vinegars; plus Jane Touzalin and Becky Krystal. Maybe Jason Wilson and Jim Shahin.

All you have to do is be helpful and friendly or funny and perspicacious and you might snag one of two cookbooks by the end of the hour: America's Test Kitchen's "Cooking for Two" (source of today's Dinner in Minutes) or "Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner?" (source of today's lovely veal polpetti recipe). We'll announce winners at the end of the chat. Here we go!

Thank you guys SO much for this recipe from about 4 chats ago. We made homemade pizza last night with the sauce and YUMMY!! It was perfect! Never again will we buy pizza sauce!

I think you're referring to the America's Test Kitchen recipe I posted a few weeks ago. That is a super sauce. I just made that pizza this weekend! So. Good.

I'm so glad that red wine vinegar is getting it's time in the sun. I've been an avid user for a long time (thanks to my mom and grandmother who always used it in their cooking). It's my go-to for salad dressings and for use in soups, especially lentil (which I just made 2 nights ago).

Couldn't agree more; RWV is terrific in lentil soup.

I am sure it is early yet but due to the warm spring, I was wondering if people knew when Strawberries would be ready.

Here's a sampling of farms from Metrocurean. And you can look for more options on Make sure you call whatever places you're interested in. If you're up for a nice day trip, Westmoreland Berry Farm said they'd have them this weekend.

Hey, Smoke Signals, is it too late to submit a barbecue sauce recipe for the contest?

It's not too late. Today is the deadline. If you make a sauce that you like, see how it stacks up. 

Send your recipe to with the words "SAUCE CONTEST" in the subject line. First prize is an onstage award at the National Barbecue Battle, one of the nation's premier bbq contests, along with automatic entry into the Battle's bbq sauce competition, and an honorary judgeship. The top three winners get an exclusive one-day tour led by yours truly that goes to, and eats at, three DC-area bbq restaurants; the tour involves a conversation with a pitmaster and a look at the smoker and kitchen.

Personally, I don't know how anyone would work on anything today but his or her sauce recipe. Can't wait to see yours. For details, click here.

Hola Free Rangers. I'm invited to a Cinco de Mayo party on Saturday and am planning on bringing dessert. I was thinking a key lime pie (made from scratch) but then I need a second dessert. What else is simple (can be prepared the night before) and fits into the theme? I'm a bit of a chocaholic so that would be an added bonus. Thanks!

Last week I had  Mexican Chocolate Chewies from Lisa Fain's "Homesick Texan" and they were fab, with cinnamon and chipotle powder; seems just the ticket for your party. We dont have that recipe in our database, but if you made these brownies, people will fall at their knees.

I've cooked with nonstick cookware until now, and I'm ready to move on. I took the plunge and bought a deBuyer iron saute pan. I followed the instructions that came with it regarding seasoning, and took the extra steps I found online that had to do with additional seasoning using potato peels. The first time I tried to use the pan - to saute some veggie sausage in a little oil - everything stuck horribly, and I ended up having to scrub the pan using conventional methods to get it clean. Do I need to start over now? What did I do wrong? I was looking forward to the pan I kept hearing about in the user comments, in which you could fry an egg in it and it would just slide out. What do I need to do to make that happen? Do I need to cook oilier/fattier things until it reaches peak seasoning? Please help.

None of us here in the Food section have heard of the potato peel approach to seasoning cast iron. I would, ahem, stick to the seasoning technique laid out by Lodge, which is my go-to brand for cast iron pans. I love 'em.

Thanks for article on red wine question-I was intrigued by the recipe for Spicy Noodles contained in the article..however the recipe calls for tahini. Since I don't want to buy a jar of tahini for this single purpose (I make hummus without tahini bc I don't care for the taste), can I substitute with almond butter or even peanut butter?

You can absolutely substitute peanut butter. These sorts of recipes do well with experimentation. On the other hand, I will say that you may love this recipe so much that you will wind up using an entire jar of tahini.

I liked this article. The author references an Arabian tomato salad using red wine vinegar, but I don't see a link to the recipe. Can you please share? Thank you.

sure... i usually make this three or four times...

Mix in big bowl:

1 1/2 cups cored, peeled and seeded tomatoes cut into cubes

 1/3 cup cup cored and seeded green pepper chopped

 1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley

 1 Tbsp finelly chopped onion

 1/2 tsp minced garlic

 1/2 tsp chopped coriander leaves

 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

 1/2 tsp ground cumin

 1 Tbps vinegar (i use red wine but you can also use white, and I use double what is called for)

2 Tbsp canola or peanut oil

Salt if necessary.

Lately I've been having some trouble with my cooking sprays. I was a long time user of Pam and then it stopped working in my non-stick pans. I switched to Crisco but it's no better. I have dark non-stick pans as well as the Wilton light colored pans and neither fares any better these days. Any suggestions?

Your problem, alas, may have been your long-term use of Pam. According to this article in the Times, "the build-up in the areas where the heat doesn’t burn the spray off — like on the sides of a frying pan — becomes sticky and pasty." Apparently the soy lecithin in the spray builds up and causes the stickiness. There's no immediate solution to this, I'm afraid. At least that I found.

Red wine vinegar is in so many tasty recipes, but it wreaks intolerable havoc on may family's digestion. What is the best substitute?

Is the problem the wine in the RWV? ... In any case, how about trying apple cider vinegar or distilled vinegar. 

Hi Food folks: I had no idea how hard it is to frost a layer cake! Yesterday I made my first one (box cake mix with homemade white chocolate cream cheese frosting) and ran into a question -- is it better to use room temperature frosting or fresh-from-the fridge cold? I used it cold; with this frosting it seemed like the closer to room temp it got, the harder it was to frost -- the sides anyway. Thanks for any advice!

Normally frostings are stiffer when cold, so you have to judge how easy or difficult it is to use room temperature frosting.  Frostings generally are meant to be soft but not runny at room temperature when cakes are served, so my butter creams are easier to use at room temperature than from the refrigerator.

Oh, knowers of all things culinary: Are the fortunes inserted into fortune cookies after the cookies are baked? Seems like they'd burn up otherwise.

Confucius says: How right you are. The cookies are baked in thin rounds; the fortunes are laid on the just-baked rounds and the cookies are immediately folded up. It's the same idea as the one behind cookies that you roll up into cones or cylinders. Has to be done before the cookies solidify.

So THAT'S what kecap manis is -- sweet soy sauce! Thanks for letting me know! A S. African friend left me most of a bottle-full when she moved away and I had no idea what it was or how to use it. I hope it wasn't supposed to be refrigerated? ...

I refrigerate mine...has it been stored in a cool-ish place? You know what I discovered about kecap manis? It's just perfect on pieces of grilled flank steak. A vendor at the farmers market was  grilling skewers and they tasted so great I asked whether he'd marinated them. The only thing he did was dunk them in kecap manis, just beforehand. You ought to try it....

Jason Wilson's in the house!

Hi! Can you teach me how to measure a teaspoon of lemon zest? I know it sounds simple ... but the last time I did it, the pieces were so fluffy that there was mostly air in the measuring spoon. So I smashed down the zest and got a fully packed teaspoon. But the recipe I made tasted too lemony. How do the experts handle this? Thanks!

Is there such a thing as "too lemony"? :)

I'm no expert, but I tend to grate the zest as demonstrated to me by chef Thomas Keller: fairly slowly, using a thin Microplane grater, inverted, so the zest catches/is held as I go. (Makes it easier to avoid any of the white, bitter pith.) I roll or shove enough of it to loosely fill the spoon measure. No packing down.

To be accurate, in a professional kitchen we weigh solids and measure liquids.  It has become difficult in recent years to measure small amounts of ingredients. For example, old recipes used to instruct to use a pinch or two of a strong-flavored ingredient such as cinnamon, cayenne, and nutmeg.  When it became politically correct not to use your fingers, the pinch became an eighth of a teaspoon, which in itself is much more than a pinch of ground spice.  Today, many recipe writers don't have the 1/8th of a teaspoon meaure, and use the smallest amount they can measure as a quarter of a teaspoon.  This has created a lot of recipes that use much too much of a certain spice. Hence, we have apple pies that taste more like cinnamon than they do of apple.

For lemon zest, we grate, mix and taste until the desired flavor has been reached.  The recipe writer should let you know how they grated, and how they measured to get the amount of lemon that they used.  When this isn't clear to you,  you should add the zest to taste.  Some like strong lemon flavor, and some mild.  I hope this helps!

I like to use just a littlel bit in a marinade - seems to perk up the flavor!!

A friend as just diagnosed with cancer. She's facing surgery, chemo and radiation. Any suggestions on dishes that can be made ahead, frozen and defrosted when needed? I'm thinking of baked ziti. She's married and has a 5 year old who is not a picky eater. The good news is that her type of cancer is often beaten with this grueling treatment plan.

You're a good pal.  Because chemo can affect the way she/he will be tasting things, I suggest some dishes without a ton of tomato sauce or a high acid content.  Congee would be nice; chicken noodle soup; and maybe some of these Make It, Freeze It, Take It dishes. Things with ginger will be appreciated too.

Help, please. I have had 8 bottles of beer in my fridge (on the door shelf if it matters) for about a year or year and a half. Does beer go bad? I was planning on serving it to my dad, but have been told that may not be a good idea. I tried doing a google search to see if beer goes bad after a while, but couldn't find anything? Should I empty out the bottles and recycle, and start out with a new purchase? I don't want to waste stuff but I also don't want to serve bad stuff to my dad and other guests. Thank you.

Funny you should ask this. This weekend, for a Texas barbecue party I threw for some out-of-town friends, we opened this old Batch 19 bottle from Coors that I had sitting around. My friends are from the Denver area, so they wanted to try it. We opened it, poured a little bit for everyone and each thought the beer had gone somewhat flat. The flavors seem muted as well.

Bottom line: The beer is drinkable, but you will not be experiencing it as the brewmaster intended. It will be a diminished product.

Ok true story. The All-You-Can-Eat section at Camden Yards cost me a pair of beloved pair of worn-down jeans. After about seven inning of eating or so, lept up to cheer after a two-out double put the Os ahead , and of course, jeans rip. Right below the tuckus. Luckily had a messenger bag to cover up the gap in the back, but if there were ever an incident to sum up the AYCA experiences....(that said, I dont really object to the empty calorie over-consumption; it's just that the food is measurably worse.)

That's a great story. Sounds like AYCE sections should supply uniforms -- or at least an extra pair of pants -- for those who buy these tickets.

Don't forget that Cinco de Mayo is ALSO Derby Day. How about doing some chocolate bourbon balls but with some chipotle seasoning added?


The problem with balsamic vinegar, as with *all* trendy ingredients, is that everyone uses it to excess. Since I have distant relatives near Modena who are visited by other family members regularly, we've always had a supply of the good stuff--meaning since I was a teenager in the 50's. However, there's a place for balsamic and there's a place for red wine and other vinegars. They are not always interchangeable.

What incredible luck to have a steady supply of the good stuff! You are absolutely right. There is a place for a good balsamic. The problem is that it was overused, and a lot of what was used wasn't really good.

I have a question about the C-CAP program. If you don't live in one of the school districts that's included, is there any way to get into the program?

Not at the moment. However, if a school or teacher wants to benefit from our curriculum, we do have a way of sharing this with them at a cost below what those in our full program pay.

I've always been told never to use sprays on pans with nonstick coatings. I've always followed that rule and have never had problems with anything sticking to my nonstick skillet.

A few questions I had over the weekend, while planning my week to come with this warm/muggy/rainy weather. 1) Is there a better tomato to use in guacamole or is roma good enough? 2) Can the cold coffee brewing method be used to make Thai iced tea (rather than having to go back and forth in a muslin)? 3) Is there a healthier ingredient that can make tuna salad creamy without using mayo?

I'll take the first part: I like romas for guac, as they have less of the seed gel inside and remain in nice firm chunks.

I'll take the third part: I use a combo of yogurt and a little mayonnaise to cut down on fat but keep a nice texture.

As for question No. 2., I've never made Thai iced tea with a cold-brewed process, but it seems as if it might work. Can you try it and report back?

Nice timing on the article about red wine vinegar -- I bought a bottle for a Seder recipe that only used up one cup, and I was wondering what to do with the rest. I did try using it instead of fresh lemon juice on a tossed salad, but it was so much stronger, I almost gagged ... Then I added more olive oil and all was good again. I do wonder -- When red wine turns, either in an unopened bottle or an opened one, can it be used as red wine vinegar, or does it need to go through some process? Thanks.

No process required. You just need the wine to completely turn, which usually requires a non-refrigerated environment and air. To hasten the process, leave the bottle out on the counter with a cork or screw-top positioned so air gets in. Then just wait. As you get more leftover wine, you can add it to your bottle. Once you have an active "mother" in the bottle, the new wine will become vinegar in about a week.

Sorry I dont use any cooking sprays in my All Clad. I add a small bit of peanut oil, olive oil or butter as required.

Any suggestions on DC or MD locations that carry quality imported foods from Western Europe? I really must find good quality cornichons. I just returned from a trip to France, and was once again reminded how tasty (and cheap) the little pickles are there, and how difficult they are to find in the US. I'd prefer to try brands besides Maille (which are good, but not great). I've dined at numerous French restaurants around the District, and have enjoyed cornichons at many of them, so I know they are available somewhere! In lieu of a shopping suggetion, I'd be open to a pickling recipe so I can make my own. Thanks!

Well, Dean & Deluca, at least online, shows a jar that is "produced in the Champagne region of Reims." Might want to call ahead before you head over.

I was tickled to read the red wine vinegar article - it was like someone had stepped inside my household! My boyfriend is staunchly pro-balsamic and will always replace any vinegar called for in a recipe with it. It's not so much that I'm against it, but I also enjoy red wine vinegar and like to use it equally. I was wondering if there was any place for vinegars in desserts, and if so, could you recommend any recipes (bonus points for red wine vinegar of course!)?

A lot of folks like to use red wine vinegar on strawberries with sugar... something like these proportions: 1 pint fresh strawberries sliced; 2 tablespoons sugar;2 tablespoons. Bobby Flay puts red wine vinegar in Red Velvet Cake.

I think the Georgetown Cupcake folks use it for their red velvet cupcakes too.

I have an electric oven and started using a thermometer while I cook. At first I sat it on the top grate and it would always read much lower than what my oven was set at. For instance, if I wanted to cook at 400 I had to set the oven at 425 to get the thermometer to read 400. Recently, I hung it from the top grate b/c I needed the room and all of a sudden the thermometer started reading the same as what the oven is set at. I found this strange and I'm not sure which reading to believe. Is there a 'right' place to put the thermometer to get the most accurate reading?

There's lots more to this answer than we have time to get into, but lots of ovens have hot/cool spots.  The temperature will cycle on and off.  I've used those gauges before and didn't find them to be so accurate, but I did hang it from the middle oven rack, halfway back.

You should test the temperature in the middle, because heat rises from the element and reflects off the top, both areas being a little hotter than the middle unless it is a convection oven.  If your oven hasn't been calibrated recently, your thermometor may read higher or lower than the oven setting, and you should use your thermomoter as a guide.  Hope this helps!

My daughter is doing a project on Malta and as part of it she has to bring some sort of Maltese dish to share. Do any of you have any familiarity with Maltese food and can give me a suggestion?

Chatters, any ideas?

Check out Rodman's too.

I second that emotion.

This is kind of a food question. :) I'm an amateur baker and enjoy cooking as well. Happily, I'm remodeling my kitchen within the next few months and was wondering if you have anything in your kitchen that you wouldn't do without or that you thought was important but are now seeing as a waste of space. Double oven? Counterspace? Flat cooktop or burners? One of those recessed sinks that you can scoop crumbs directly into? Appliance garage? I'm pretty much starting over from scratch, so any help would be appreciated!

Sadly, it's been a while since my kitchen was remodeled. But a friend recently had hers done, and I am quite covetous of her vertical shelves designed to hold baking sheets, cooling racks and other similar-shaped devices on end so they don't have to be stacked, which is a pain. Anyone else?

This is worth its own hour-long chat, you understand. You might get some ideas from Local Living's recent kitchen issue.

Don't forget to do a crumb layer! Spread a very thin layer of your frosting all over the cake. That's going to grab onto any loose crumbs and cement them in. Let the frosting harden and then go back and do your nice, thick, beautiful layer over the top. Now you won't have to worry about crumbs showing.

Just bought a new non-stick last weekend and the instructions say "do not use cooking spray on this pan". First time I've seen it and now I know why!

My boyfriend and I have kind of hit a food rut--we are vegetarians but we are a little tofu-ed out. We eat a fair amount of lentils and eggs as well, but we need some more ideas to use those ingredients. The bf doesn't like beans, so a meal can't really feature them in a main way. We really like ethnic food and I'm pretty hand in the kitchen, but during the week, I like recipes that can come together pretty quickly. Thanks!

I just made some superb aloo gobi at a cooking class this weekend, so I've got that on the brain. Check out our recipes for Cauliflower, Potatoes and Peas Indian-Style (listed as a side dish, but I'd eat it as a main, especially with some naan) and Pan-Fried Cheese With Potatoes and Cauliflower in Vinegar Sauce.

Pan-Fried Cheese With Potatoes and Cauliflower in Vinegar Sauce

You can find more ideas by going to our database and doing a search for recipes that are meatless, fast and any other parameters you'd like to set.

I believe Heidelberg Bakery sells them - they go nicely with cold cuts on rye bread with spicy German mustard!

Hey its still a free country despite the best efforts of the food police, FLOTUS and their best bud Tim Carman. If I want to eat 8000 unhealthy calories at a baseball game its my business. If you dont like it go cry in your tofu and organic greens. Its getting close for all right thinking red meat eating Americans to rise up and take this country back from our overeducated nannies.

Mr. Grumpy -- why do I assume you're male? -- doesn't know me very well. I spent 18 hours this weekend smoking a 12-pound brisket. Plus two racks of St. Louis style ribs and several pounds of sausages. I'm clearly not against overindulgence.

Personally, I love eating a hot dog and peanuts at the ballpark. Would I love eating 10 dogs and four bags of peanuts? Not unless I had a barf bag nearby.

Any chance Eastern/Central European pickles would do? There are several places in Rockville that could help with that: Kielbasa Factory; European Delight.

Thanks for the links!

Does it have the same health benefits as red wine?

I don't know for certain, but I'd say no. There are a lot of claims about the health benefits of vinegar, but I don't think any have been conclusively proved.  I also wouldn't bet my life on any claims about health benefits from red wine quite yet.

I would like to ask your student, what kind of advice would you give a fellow student who is interested in pursuing a cooking career but doesn't know where to start? Are there high school classes he should take? Have you ever had an internship anywhere and if so how did you get it.


Yes there are classes he should take in high school. Some high schools in the area offer Culinary Arts while most, like many of the school in the District do not. I havent had the pleasure to intern with a chef yet, but I am planning to do so this summer.

If you are not in a high school that has a culinary arts program, you might check out, an online cooking school with extraordinary instructional videos.  This together with reading and cooking at home will be a good start for you.  When you are confident with your knife skills, you can go to a local restaurant and ask if you can shadow or stage for free for a couple of days. This will introduce you to a professional kitchen, and if your skills are good enough to start prepping food, you might be hired. Even on a part-time basis, this will be good experience. 

Margarita or Mojito cupcakes are always a hit!

Great article (says the baseball loving girl). While I have had the opportunity to take part in the Nationals Stadium Presidential seats and the meal that is included (and it was wonderful) I was unaware that other ball parks had lower-end all-you-can-eat thing going on. Never would I want to (or have the room) eat the amount of food that some of the people in the article consumed yet the break-down of food cost + baseball ticket compared to all-inclusive food w/ticket is truly a great deal. Granted, we're talking about hotdogs, burgers, nachos, etc...not the specialty vendors with crabcakes, Boogs bbq, etc, but the idea of including the $4.50 soda & $5 hotdog plus a few other munchies is a great deal for a day at the park. I would have loved to see the full list of stadiums that offer this kind of deal.

Thanks for the good words.

I spend a good amount of time trying to figure out which teams offer All You Can Eat seats. I also reached out to Major League Baseball to confirm my search. MLB agreed with me that these 16 teams offer some form of AYCE seats:




White Sox ( For the 2 Hour Patio and Warning Track Parties)


  Royals (select games)



Angels (all inclusive packages,)*



Mets (all inclusive package for champions club ticket holders)*


Rays (on select games)



But I also argued with MLB that the Nationals, Padres and Athletics also have some form of AYCE seats too, which brings the number of teams to 19.

I bought some lowfat milk that tastes...well, the best way I can describe it is that it tastes meaty -- sort of like a butcher shop smells. Any idea what this is? This happened to me once before, a few years ago, and I used the milk for cooking and I'm still alive, so that's what I'll do this time. I'm just wondering about it.

I think it would be hard for us to venture a guess. But I generally have a rule -- if it smells nasty, toss it.

Was it in a cardboard carton or glass bottle? Wondering whether there was anything else in your fridge that might have imparted that particular aroma....

I'm just wondering if anyone has done any studies on whether enrollment in culinary school has increased in proportion to the national takeover by Food Network. :)

I don't know of any studies, but interest in culinary schools has certainly been fueled by the success of the Food Network.  Another observation over the years is that whenever there is a downturn in the economy, enrollment at culinary schools goes up.  This certainly has been true the past few years. 

is the vertical pull out spice rack under the countertop!! I made a little weeee moaning noise first time I saw it!

As long as it's not situated near the oven, that is. The radiant heat really saps the spices.

It's been sitting on top of the refrigerator for over two years. And it had been opened. Should I check for a certain smell? I never refrigerate soy sauce so I'm hoping it's okay. What do you think? Maybe I'll try making the shrimp recipe with tofu instead of shrimp, and just for myself, so if it's spoiled I'll be the only one to get sick and I'll know it's because of the kecap manis. Do you want me to report back next week? And if you were to send me the ATK book, it'll be worth it even if I do get sick...

I'd pitch it, then. Sorry. FYI, the ATK recipe calls for hoisin, but I found that the kecap manis works even better.

I have some beautiful swiss chard, kale, and spring onions from the Crystal City farmers market yesterday. Any great ideas to use them, together or separately? I'm looking for something healthy and vegetarian. Thanks!

Nice haul. Here are some recipes from our database:

Asian-Style Kale, a quickly sauteed side dish that's low in fat and sodium.

Fresh Kale Salad, photo below, terrific; the small amount of cream in the recipe is worth every calorie. (But there are only 90 calories per serving.)

Baked Polenta With Cheese and Swiss Chard, healthful comfort food.

Arugula and Spring Onion Frittata, perfect for entertaining.

Fresh Kale Salad

Smoke Signals! My neighbor makes a killer barbecue sauce, but doesn't think it stands a chance against more "organized" competition. Should I keep trying to talk him into submitting the recipe? I know a winner when I taste one.

    Your neighbor needs to enter! 

     There are no organized groups or anything that he or she needs to worry about. This is just a bunch of bbq fanatics, home cooks, and hobbyists who like to tinker with making barbecue sauce. 

       Encourage your neighbor to enter. The deadline is today. The entry should be emailed to, with "SAUCE CONTEST" in the subject line. Details are here: 

O food gurus, are there any uses for the above? They are frozen beyond resuscitation. Can I make anything out of them?

Defrost. Pulse to crumbs in a food processor = bread crumbs for lining souffle dishes, tops of casseroles, thickener for blended sauces, etc.

Maybe every Wednesday at noon there could be a pretend chat for Clinton and Mr Grumpy and the others. Call it "How the Democrats are ruining dinner." Then we can talk about vinegars and frosting cakes and cornichons in peace.

The question about Guac got me thinking about my recipe that I have been thinking of making since there seem to suddenly be a lot of good looking avocados in the grocery store. Every time I make this simple recipe, people go crazy for it. It's simply avocado cut into bite sized chunks with as much chopped tomato as you like plus a little bit of chopped red onion to taste. The key? Lots of fresh lime juice - -like one whole lime per avocado, plus a little salt and pepper. No cilantro unless you can't live without the stuff. Tart, refreshing and super delicious.

HI! Just a note of THANKS for the great article and mentions of C-CAP. I saw the movie "Pressure Cooker" which is a heartfelt documentary about several students in the program, going through their own trials and tribulations while trying to cultivate a culinary career. It is a fantastic documentary that does a great job of showing how CRITICAL this program can be in the lives of its participants (not to mention that my dear ol' dad was the principal of the school featured and is a big fan of the program). Thanks for all that you do and congratulations Jeanine!!

Thanks for your appreciation of the Emmy-nominated documentary, Pressure Cooker.  For anyone else who is interested, you can find some reviews of the film at this link.


An interesting note: Over 500 New York high school principals are receiving DVD's of the film to show to their students and teachers.  We hope that it is received well by all, and that other schools will want to show the film to their students as well.


Hi all I absolutely love breakfast but don't have time to make something great every day. Often when I go to places like Dunkin Donuts or Chesapeake Bagel Bakery, the eggs they use in sandwiches are pre-made patty things they heat up in the microwave. How would I replicate something like that at home? It would be a great time saver!

I am totally, totally winging this, but what I would do is make your favorite fritta recipe (or use one of ours). After you slide it out of the pan, use a biscuit cutter to cut out rounds. Then you can reheat them individually in, say, the microwave.

The spatulas and stirrer I bought for use with my non-stick pans now require use of steel wool to remove food particles, especially dried-on egg. This is true even if I soak them in soapy water. I'm wondering if this means they're no longer safe to use on non-stick surfaces, or is it irrelevant as long as I get all the food off before I use them? It's possible at least one of them is not as smooth as it was when new. I don't remember if the utensils were supposed to be non-stick, or just safe to use on non-stick pans. Thank you.

I'm not sure we can give you a definitive answer, but having to scrape off food with steel wool sounds onerous at best. I'd get some new utensils!

I greatly enjoyed this morning's story about red wine vinegar, which I use frequently in salad dressings, as well as white wine vinegar, but haven't used for other purposes. The red wine vinegar I buy specifies that its made from bordeaux grapes and I believe the brand sells other varietal-specific wine vinegars. With so many varieties of red wine, I'm surprised other brands don't do this. Surely it must make a flavor difference. Do you know what varietal most red wine vinegar is and, to the extent you detect a difference, do you have a favorite?

Varietals do make a difference, although the tri-part combo in one of the vinegars we taste-tested was waaay too acidic. I really like a zinfandel vinegar made by Katz.

Kudos to Jeanine on your success! C-CAP sounds like a great program. What are you favorite meals to repurpose for lunch? My boyfriend and I split duties in that I cook and he cleans, but I'm about to start a new job and won't have as much time to prepare elaborate lunches, so I'd love to hear how you handle leftovers, thanks!

In the morning before schools sometimes I make sandwiches or even his favorite salad. Usually when I cook dinner there's plenty of leftovers. I love pasta, so I make a lot of pasta dishes. I find it easier to cook the food the night before and just pack it in the morning.

Can the veal polpetti be baked on a broiler pan? I try to cut the fat wherever possible (and retain flavor) and that's usually an easy deletion for beef/pork meatballs. Not sure if veal will be too dry. In any case, thank you for the recipe. And I love Sunday dinners! We have an "every weekend unless you hear otherwise" policy and just require one day's notice to make sure we'll have enough. We enjoy experimenting on friends and family (currently on a grilling bender and have done a Persian feast and grilled pizza) and it seems that everyone enjoys the relaxing end of weekend casual get-together with a glass of wine, good food, and good conversation, and sometimes a new friend or two. Bonus: it can take the place of the sometimes daunting dinner party if you owe a few invites!

Sure, you can bake them on a broiler pan, and it would achieve half of your goal by cutting fat. But it not help you achieve the rest of your goal, to retain flavor. The nice crust that frying creates on the meat delivers great taste, which you will forfeit. Also, the meat won't look as deliciously brown -- it'll be a little grayish-brownish. Check frequently with your instant-read thermometer to keep them from overcooking, and you should be fine as far as moistness is concerned.

Does Shahin know of a place to order different kinds of woods to use either in barbequing or smoking? Since I don't know much about this method of cooking, it would seem that different woods would give different flavors. Any suggestions for a beginner?

You're right, different woods do impart different flavors. For a beginner, start with the various woods you can find in supermarkets and hardware stores, such as pecan, hickory, apple, and oak. Apple is smooth and gentle. Oak is mild. Pecan is nutty and a bit stronger. Hickory can be a little assertive. Play around with them, then come back to the chat for more info later. 

re "To be accurate, in a professional kitchen we weigh solids and measure liquids" -- What brand of measuring cups, spoons, etc do you use for liquids? I've found that my Pyrex measures things differently than my OXO, etc. Or does it not matter as long as you only use one brand? Thanks!

I normally use Pyrex cups for measuring liquids, and have had no problem.  Your observations are interesting to note, but I don't think you will have any problems unless the differences are more than a tablespoon. 

Best thing about my remodeled kitchen? Well, two - - (a) 2 dishwashers if you have the room and entertain a lot and (b) two trash bings - one next to sink and another in the island! Just sweep off the counter directly into the trash can. And, oh yes, I love my vertical spice rack and vertical tray holder.

I am a big fan of Bragg's apple cider vinegar (with the mother in it). It adds an amazing depth to a whole range of foods. I put a slosh into some chickpea soup I made last weekend and it added a lovely something extra (you cannot taste the cider itself). Sort of like Bragg's amino acids, which add an umami to things.

Bonnie's shrimp recipe from this morning sounds really good. Could you be more specific about the kind of shrimp to use? Is peeled, deveined shrimp something that's frozen as opposed to what you find in the fresh seafood area of the grocery store? Also, if one cannot find sweet soy sauce, can you just substitute regular with either honey or brown sugar?

It is, and so simple. Most shrimp we get our hands on has been frozen, and it's fine to use.  If you can't track down the kecap manis, try hoisin.

Several years ago at a fancy restaurant in Umbria the waiter messed up my order so that basically I had just a tiny salad for dinner. So he says he has a special treat for me to make up for it and brings out, with much fanfare, a perfume-sized bottle with a baby spoon and proceeds to give me about 1/2 teaspoon of this very special aged balsamic. It was quite delicious, but a little anti-climactic after the buildup. All in all I'd rather have had the wild boar I didn't get for dinner.

I'm just wondering if anyone else had the same experience that I had with the boxed frites place at Nats stadium. The sauces were good enough, nothing new, but still good. The fries, however, were meh. And they didn't remind me of ones I've had in Belgium or Paris, either. If you have a good make-at-home recipe to try I'd love to have it!

I haven't yet tried the Box Frites stand, which is run by Union Square Hospitality, the same folks behind Shake Shack. Perhaps they don't double fry the frites?

You might give this oven-roasted frites recipe a try. Less messy.

It seems more ballparks are serving pulled pork and other types of barbeque and it's going over well. Don't know where they get their recipes but it seems to be selling even in the smaller parks.

I don't know about Jim Shahin, but I'm not a fan of ballpark barbecue. It's all about the sauce, and not about the smoke flavor. I'll stick with a hot dog. Or a Shake Burger.

Jason, I thought of you this weekend as I tried ChurchKey's Brunch Punch. I was all excited to go home and make it, then I looked again at the menu and realized that while I had grapefruit juice, bitters and mint, that flavor that I hadn't been able to identify was tropical fruit vodka. I'd have never been tempted to buy it before, but don;t want to buy it for just brunch punch. Any other ideas for if I go ahead and splurge?

Hmmm..tropical fruit vodka... How much of a splurge are we talking here? There aren't many great uses for it, but if you're making a big batch of punch for a party, you'd go through a lot, right? If you do mix it, don't go for the usual tonic, which I think is a bad match with flavored vodka. Go for club soda or ginger beer.

Sadly, my pizza stone has left this world for the big pizza oven in the sky, so in the meantime I want to use the upside down baking sheet trick. Does it need to be a certain type of pan? Should I dust it with cornmeal? Preheat or not preheat?

Oh, so sad. You need to replace that ASAP! First check out Joe's method for cooking pizza using the broiler. I think you might find that a good alternative. I've never done this -- I own, ahem, two stones -- but, yes, for a cookie sheet I would both preheat and use cornmeal.

Does the BBQ recipe have to be one's own original or could it be one that has been used for years and I forgot where it came from originally - folks seem to love the one I make, but I was hesitant about using it. Thanks

     If your bbq recipe is something you developed, you're good to go. If it is something that came from elsewhere, it's a no go. 

Don't you get tired of people critizing??? It seems as though every person has his/her own opinion about barbeque or smoking, so be it. Enjoy what you like and don't make what you're not happy with!!!!!

    Hey, that's the cantakerous populace of BBQ Nation. We're an argumentative, passionate lot. You learn to love it. Or at least get used to it. 

Her appetite might stay normal for a while and then change a lot. In my Mom's case, after a few months, she craved pretty much all flavors of frozen yogurt and not much else -- and it wasn't even summertime. I'm thinking maybe you should get her an ice cream or frozen yogurt maker, so her family can make it for her fresh and the 5 year old feel good about helping out that way. But I'm sure store-bought is fine, too. Also, give her things to keep her mouth moist, like lozenges and lollipops. In the lozenge-and-lollipop category, sugar-free might be better because she won't be wanting to get up to brush her teeth 20 times a day.

Very good suggestions, thanks.

Next time you're going to use it try this. Take a paper towel and wipe a thin film of peanut oil in the skillet then try cooking your sausage. Has to be peanut oil - higher smoking point. If you do this several cooking sessions it should get nice and slick.

I was thrilled to read the article on preferring red wine vinegar to balsamic! I've never liked balsamic and thought I was the only one out there, considering how it seems to have taken over the world. The author had it 100 percent correct. I find it so cloying and syrupy and much prefer red wine vinegar. Actually, I don't think balsamic even tastes like vinegar - I never notice hardly any acid in it. Now for my question, which is actually slightly related to the story. She mentioned that she often puts a splash of red wine vinegar to her soup to brighten it up. I've heard of this technique before, about how just a little vinegar can make soup taste better, but I wasn't sure on how to do it. Should I add it at the end? The beginning? Does it work for all soups, or is it best used only on broth-type soups or creamy soups? Thanks!

We might have lost Valerie at thend here, but she told us she splashes it in at the end (no more cooking). Brothy soups, gazpachos...

It may be hard to believe but I swear by Trader Joe's cornichons. They're absolutely amazing (as is their spicy white wine dijon).

My home coffee roasting continues to perplex me. I'm now roasting smaller batches and thought things would go more quickly. I also expected a more even roast. But my Whirly Pop popper is taking almost the same amount of time to roast a small batch as it did a large one, and the roast is still uneven. I think a class would be beneficial. I've read a couple of books on home roasting, but if I roasted with others and could ask questions of an instructor, I'm sure my technique would improve. Are there any such classes offered locally?

You are hardcore! I've tried roasting at home, too, and it's hard. I found it wasn't worth my time.

I check with Joel Finkelstein at Qualia Coffee in Petworth, my go-to shop. He knows of no roasting classes locally. He sometimes offers a "roast-your-own session" as a charity auction item, but that's about it. The only one he knows about is at Boot Coffee, in Mill Valley, Calif.

My husband and I both need to lose few pounds, so I'm trying to make meals that don't generate tempting leftovers. I know that in baking, you can't divide a recipe by any more than two before you have to start adjusting leavening, flavorings, etc. Does the same hold for cooking?

Not enough to worry.

For the person who wanted to make egg patties, I bought this great round egg patty maker at Target that you can use to make egg patties (the perfect size for any hamburger bun or english muffin!) in the microwave, and you can add anything you'd like in the egg before you cook it. Look for it where they sell the microwave cookware stuff in the kitchen section. I love mine, and I can only imagine how great it would be for those who make breakfast at the office.

There's a gadget for everything!

There will never be a hot dog or knish as good as the ones we used to get on the lower east side of NY in the 50's from the man with the hot dog cart. . . what tasty memories!

Forget making it creamy. Use light tuna packed in olive oil (Italian is best, but Trader Joe's works well). Drain and toss with red onion, a little oregano, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Let set for a few minutes and serve on hard rolls--heaven!

better yet, cook an egg in the microwave in a small bowl or ramekin (cover the bowl with a paper towel). it takes a minute and you can make them fresh while waiting for your english muffin to toast.

my iron skillets are perfect now, but it took a while. The key is not using soap, just scrubbing bits out with paper towel (or your fingernail), drying it on a burner, and then rubbing some oil on the pan before storing it. (I store mine in my oven).

I'm so glad I'm not the only person who uses his/her fingernails to clean cast iron. Could I be the only one who enjoys the tactile sensation of it?

In this month's Runner's World there is a wonderful salmon salad recipe using Greek yogurt, but you can easily sub tuna for the canned salmon.

I am making 6 desserts for an event in June. 2 different types of cookies, 1 batch of cupcakes, a bundt cake, buckeyes, and baked doughnuts. Am trying to figure out what I can do in advance so I am not completely overwhelmed day-of. Any advice or resources you can offer? Thanks so much!

Cakes and cupcakes freeze beautifully. So do most types of cookies. Seems like you can bake and freeze all of those a couple weeks in advance, then frost them (if they need frosting) the day before. Buckeyes can be made at least a couple days in advance and refrigerated; or make all of the centers way early and freeze them until a few days in advance, then coat with the chocolate. You can probably freeze the doughnuts, too, but I'm not sure; why not experiment with making some now and freezing, then checking them in a couple of weeks?

An oven repairman told me that it takes much longer for an oven to heat to a uniform temperature than the indicator on your stove - - like closer to 30 minutes. He said the temp sensors are located near the heat source at the back so they register quickly as the correct temp, even though the temp in the middle is not up to where it needs to be.

A repairman told me the same thing (and my free-standing oven thermometer bears that out). He also told me it's par for the course for oven thermostats to be off by 50 degrees in either direction -- kind of a bummer, if true.

It tastes clean, perks things up, and doesn't have the cost/quality issues of balsamic, not to mention the cliche issues. Yay!

Haven't been this year, but last year the AYCE food included lots of salads and such. Sure, there were people pigging out, just like there are at any AYCE thing. As for the rest of the ballpark, don't miss the Jerk Chicken and Ribs stand up near the scoreboard. Real food, not too expensive.

The salads at PNC Park in Pittsburgh were AWOL when I was there last month, even though the team advertises the salads on its All You Can Eat page online.

My dad often makes an egg-and-cheese sandwich for breakfast. Instead of pre-making the egg patties and reheating them, he'll just put a little bit of cooking spray in a ramekin, break in an egg and scramble it with a fork, and then cook it in the microwave for a minute, and then if necessary cook it in additional 30-second increments until it's cooked through.

Thanks for the suggestion. Does the microwave create rubbery eggs?

Sorry to be so 'basic', but I was making a carrot cake when I realized that I don't know how to measure vegetables. Do I pack them in to the measuring cup or are they loosely piled in? Thanks!

If you're talking about grated carrots, don't stuff them in. But make it a solid pack, sure.

Who cares what they do in Pittsburgh? Here in DC, the Nats do a good job with their AYCE, including lots of veggies and salads.

I just boil eggs ahead of time and slice one in half to put on my english muffin.

The other key for frosting a cake, is making sure the cake is completely cool. It took me a few times to figure out what I was doing wrong.

And you a brave chatter for admitting that.

I cut off zest from lemons, oranges etc. using a very sharp small boning or paring knife. Next I chop it as finely as possible. Then I zap it in the food-processor until it's the size of grated zest. I do a whole bunch of the same kind of zest at one time, freeze it in a sandwich bag, then use as needed (I whack the bag against the counter to loosen up some of the frozen zest).

Did you see today's Slate piece on caramelizing onions? What kind of time estimates to the Washington Post recipes use?

Well, I don't believe the author's got a grip on reality when referring to Post recipes. We don't use the term "caramelized" for onions that cook 8-10 minutes, but those onions can get golden brown. You can achieve some caramelization in as little as 20 minutes (using techniques such as starting with a little water and a sprinklling of sugar), but usually we figure it takes 35 to 40 minutes.

Yikes, where'd the time go? Thanks to Jeanine (and her instructor) for taking the time during a school day, and to Richard Grausman, our pal Valerie, Jim and Jason for joining us today -- and to you, dear chatters, of course!


Chat winners: The person who asked about broiling the veal polpetti wins the "Sunday Dinner" cookbook, and the chatter who suggested yogurt options for the recuperating cancer friend wins the ATK "Cooking for Two" cookbook.  Send your mailing info to and she'll get those right out to you. Until next week, happy cooking and eating!

In This Chat
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie Benwick is interim editor of the Food section; joining us today are interim recipe editor Jane Touzalin, staff writer Tim Carman and Food aide Becky Krystal. Guests: Post education writer and red wine vinegar fan Valerie Strauss; Jeanine Williams, Roosevelt High School senior and winner of a scholarship to Johnson & Wales Culinary Institute in Denver; and Richard Grausman, founder and chairman of the Careers through Culinary Arts Program.
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