Free Range on Food: We're here to answer all your cooking questions and discuss making the most of your freezer, baking with less yeast, this week's recipes and more!

May 20, 2020

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

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Past Free Range on Food chats

When faced with food shortages, as we have been in recent days, it can be easy to romanticize about the good old days. Grow your own. Raise your own. 

This week, Tamar Haspel offers an unvarnished look at what it really means to manage a backyard chicken coop. She’s all for it. It is worth it for the eggs, but, as she notes, you need to prepare for the responsibility, and you’ll need an exit strategy.

If the pandemic has you more eager than ever to support local farmers, Becky Krystal is with you. She’s a recent convert to those CSA boxes and this week gathered hot and cold recipes that make the most of shiny tiny tomatoes she found insider hers. 

Most of those tomato recipes are simple to make. That’s not surprising. Easy-does-it has been our mantra for weeks now, as we all cope with shuttered restaurants and stay-at-home orders.

Looking for an easy-to-make — and, bonus, gluten-free — treat? Becky whipped up a Bakewell Tart cookie bar that brings together those perfect-for-each-other flavors of almond and raspberry.

Mary Beth Albright pulled out her trusty sheet pan in her latest Quarantine Cooking video. Her recipe is more of a strategy and totally customizable. So, turn your oven to 400 degrees and dig in. And ask her anything you'd like -- she's going to join us today, and on future chats (we hope)!

Nourish columnist Ellie Krieger makes a quick-marinated salad that puts favorite spring vegetables – carrots, asparagus, peas and scallions — into one bright bowl.

I can never get enough one-skillet chicken recipes. This week, I made a garlicky dish from a roadside restaurant I love in South Louisiana. Try Mosca’s weeknight-easy Chicken a la Grande, which would look good on your Sunday table, too.

Joe Yonan took the hard work out of risotto with a Polish twist and a recipe for Barley Risotto With Asparagus, Cider and Goat Cheese.

Kari Sonde rounded up four ingredients — gochujang, horseradish, sumac and miso – that, with a dash or sprinkle, can add a big bolt of flavor to savory dishes. She’s got tips and recipes, too.

And, Becky, whose guides to substitutions have been invaluable through the pandemic -- don’t miss her guide about what to do if you are running low on yeast — also shared a piece on how to make the most of your freezer, so you can squirrel away those great breakfast burritos she makes or any big-batch recipes. 

Still, if all the fast and easy has you yearning for a cooking project, Kari has you covered. This week she found a batch of mutli-step recipes for whiling away a lazy day.

And, heck, if you want something amazing, but just don’t feel like cooking … again. Take a break and consider. Tom Sietsema noted that mail-ordered iconic dishes offer a way to at least get a taste of favorite cities, and maybe you'll have a few fewer dishes to do

I'm planning to make this hummus recipe that gives me pause. It calls for canned chickpeas to be boiled for 20 minutes with 1/2 tsp baking soda. I've only used baking soda in baked goods before, but the recipe claims it aids softening. I'm curious to hear what Joe thinks.

Huh, this is interesting! I use baking soda sometimes when I cook dried chickpeas to help with the softening, but with canned, that seems like a waste! I'm sure boiling them for 20 minutes will sure get them even softer, so the hummus would theoretically be even smoother, but I wouldn't bother. My favorite hummus recipe takes all of 5 minutes, and you use canned chickpeas and a Vita-Mix or other high-powered blender, and you use the liquid from the chickpeas to keep it nice and light. I like the hummus to be the consistency of thick pancake batter when I'm making it -- and this does the trick. Fluffy!

I received my first CSA box this week and it came with a bunch of radishes. We're not fans of raw radishes so any suggestions for a way I can serve them that at least the adults will enjoy? Thanks!

The recipe for the overnight Dutch oven bread calls for a 6 qt oven. The scaled down instructions for a smaller loaf also say 6. Is a 3.5 qt large enough for that? And is there any sort of general rule for figuring out when scaling down a receptacle works? I live alone and am always looking for things I can cut in half, but it’s not always clear that some are feasible.

Right, unfortunately our database doesn't allow for things other than ingredients/servings to be scaled down. Seems like the smaller Dutch oven would be sufficient for the smaller loaf.

RECIPE: Overnight Dutch Oven Bread

I think you just kind of need to use your common sense. Obviously baking pans are going to be trickier -- here's a post I wrote that might help. Think about volume and whether the size matters. In many cases with things that are boiled/cooked in a skillet or pot, doesn't really matter what you use.

Hello friends — I’d like to make this recipe from a couple of weeks ago but have only boneless chicken breasts on hand. Do you think it would work or should I wait until my next grocery run when I can get a whole chicken?

Hey, I think it would work. The only change I would make would be to adjust the cooking time. Check the internal temperature on the fattest piece of chicken (should be 165) about 40 to 45 minutes in. 
Here's the recipe for Baseball Chicken, in case anyone missed.

GREAT article on chickens...Where I was raised we always had a few layers and the odd bunch of capons, and we did kill and dress and freeze them. I have a conflict this noontime and cannot log in, but please explain the use of a washing machine for plucking...??? We used a boiling hot water submerge prior to plucking (I can still smell those hot wet feathers) ... but we used large buckets or metal tubs - (and then we singed off those little tiny "hairs" either with a lit candle or a over small fire.) Thank you for an explanation... And, again, a really excellent article.

Glad you liked the piece! You can't use the washing machine as is -- what you want is the motor, which can then drive either a drum with rubber plucking fingers on the inside (the chicken goes inside) or a tube with the plucking fingers on the outside (you hold the chicken up to it). My husband happens to be very fond of engineering challenges, so we've done it both ways. Oh and a few more, too (you can do a lot with a drill driver!).

of the Allison Roman dustup? Frankly, as soon as I read her initial comments, I thought "oh, you should have censored yourself - because now the world will censor you!" And while I agree that it looks bad that her criticism was directed at women "of color" and that her recipes often use ingredients more frequently used in non-US cultures (that's why I love them!), geez, criticizing someone because they use coconut milk and fish sauce without saying "oh, these items are more frequently used in Thailand" is displaced or at least inappropriate criticism. I think the NYT's suspension of her column is more sexist than anything else and if the NYT is feeling some heat for having mostly white writers for its Food section, well, the solution isn't firing - or suspending - the funniest, most charming writer the NYT Food section employs. So that's my thinking - yours? I promise not to "cancel" you if you disagree!

We don't really know much about the true motivation for the hiatus, for how long, or how she or they might be planning to respond. It could just be that she and/or they just wanted to take a break to avoid further reaction until they figure out next steps. I'm withholding public judgment, since it's a story we're covering.

Alison Roman’s New York Times column on hiatus after flap with Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo

I miss sharing meals with friends and family. But I especially miss sharing baked goods with them. How can I do this safely? For instance, if I bake bread or cookies and only handle them with tongs afterwards, can I share these baked goods? Are you able to share food with people you're not sheltering with? How?

I think you can safely do this. Really, you just need to practice the same kind of food safety for handling food you always do. Wash your hands frequently (before and after cooking), don't cook food while you're sick, etc. As far as we know, the risk of transmission via food is very low.

Since we're still making food for remote photo shoots, there's still food being passed off (from me, that's mostly been baked goods). Obviously, no one is sharing plates or bites! But I've been careful about doing the things I said above, and I have felt confident in letting people eat what I've made. And sure, if you go minimal-touch after baking, that certainly isn't a bad thing.

ARTICLE: The good news about food safety and coronavirus: It’s the same advice we’ve known all along

I vaguely recall that someone said they store ginger in the freezer. Do you peel it first? Trying to stop mine from drying out and going to waste :)

That was Angela Davis! Yes, she peels it first.

What kind of dried seaweed is kombu? I have a generic dried seaweed (kit nori; looks like shrivled wrinkled kelp). Might this be it? Thanks!

It's a kind of kelp. Nori is different.

Well, I've turned into my very thrifty depression-era grandmother. My freezer is full of vegetable ends and peels for making stock, broccoli stems for making broccoli soup and every imaginable, neatly labeled leftover for future use. I'm fortunate to have a produce drawer full of lovely lemons, limes, navel oranges and easy peel halos. I've been putting a few of the peels down the garbage disposal, but I have more than I want to grind up that way. Any suggestions for using citrus peel?

Love to hear what other folks think. Here are a couple of ideas.

Zest the citrus before you peel or juice it. Then, use that zest in dishes or dressings to add a little zip.

And/or make citrus-flavored salt or sugar. Check out brief descriptions of how in this story: Capture the sunny freshness of lemons with syrup, marmalade and preserves

Also, if you have the zest, you can put it in a resealable bag or some other airtight container and slip it into the freezer to use later in stir-fry or a marinade.

We're sure you thought of this, but you could make candied peel with the it. Try this Candied Orange Peel recipe.

I have 2 1/2 pounds of green beans from my latest grocery delivery -- do you have recommendations on side dishes I could use them in? Ideally Whole 30 friendly.

Plenty of options in this piece compiling great green bean recipes. 

Free green beans from the casserole with these 9 recipes

Maybe it's just me, but I can't grate garlic (or almost anything) with the box grater without grating my fingers. Any tips?

This won't really help, I know, but I love my garlic press. It saves my fingertips. Also, for most recipes, you can simply mince the garlic.

I grate garlic (and nutmeg and ginger and zest lemons, such) using my trusty Microplane! I can't recommend this wonder-tool enough! The reason I prefer to grate garlic rather mince it because I am lazy and grating it into the bowl or pan or whatever means I don't have a cutting board to wash :)

During pañtry inventory I came across a can of pureed butternut squash. I cannot remember the recipe I bought it for. Any suggestions? I was thinking of treating it like pumpkin and adding to muffins. Since we are gluten free it is easier to go with a muffin mix. Any suggestions on modifying the.mix?

Why not just use a gluten-free flour blend in a tried-and-true recipe, like this one? The butternut squash can sub in 1 for 1 for the pumpkin puree.

Pumpkin Muffins

I don't mean this as in I bought too much. I got excited at one of the bread recipes once I finally got my hands on some yeast. However, I didn't realize until after I had already prepared the dough that the recipe called for active yeast, and I had instant yeast (it was all they had at the grocery and who reads the package beyond "yeast" when there isn't any?). I looked up that you should use less instant yeast, but the bread turned out fine after a couple of bumps. But, if I were to have used the smaller quantity, what do I do with the leftover yeast? Will it stay fresh in a ziploc bag?

Glad you you got some yeast! Advice does vary, but actually a 1-to-1 instant for active dry swap is fine. So you did the right thing! Really, instant is more about how it can be "instantly" incorporated into your dry ingredients without proofing separately in liquid first. Take a look at Stella Parks's handy yeast primer. She also notes that instant yeast tends to hold up better in storage over time than active dry and that instant can tolerate slightly higher liquid temperatures. 

I store all my yeast in the freezer. That keeps it years, in my experience.

Question: What was a category on last night's "Jeopardy"?

I heard -- fun!

But according to at least one recap I read, nobody played that clue? I've gotta watch the episode, obvi.

I've had good luck freezing all kinds of cheese. Shredded and block cheeses, unopened, freeze well. I also have been able to freeze Costco's Normandy Brie - my favorite. I portion it into 4 pieces and wrap each piece in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. I place the wrapped pieces in a freezer bag and freeze. It thaws beautifully. I always eat it all before 3 months, so I don't know how long the maximum freeze time is...

Thank you for the tips. That's good to know. We recently did a couple of helpful posts for people who are looking for freezing advice.

Becky Krystal's guide to using your freezer.

How to freeze fresh vegetables while preserving their best qualities


With all this sadness all around us, are there foods guaranteed to elevate one's mood?

I find that a simple whiff of lemon always makes me smile. Have you considered lemonade made with fresh lemon syrup? I add fresh mint leaves to my lemonade, but you can just go classic and skip.

Mary Beth- I found the mug cake recipe. Haven't decided whether I thank you or curse you for making it so easy to succumb to cake. Anyway, do you think I could premix the dry ingredients to have on hand in case of cake emergency? Re: 3 t = 1 T blowing people's minds try this: 2 T = 1 fl oz. 1/4 c = 2 fl oz. Ergo, 4 T milk = 1/4 c milk and 1 less thing to wash.

If succumbing to cake is wrong, I don't want to be right. I love everything about your comment! And yes, it's totally fine to have the premixed dry ingredients ready for TRUE cake emergencies (just make sure to keep them VERY dry because liquid can activate the baking soda).


I peel the zest off before freezing, then it is ready to toss into ANY baked good. Zest is great in pasta and grain salads also. I put some kind of mandarin-type zest into a pasta salad with capers, tuna, and roasted red peppers recently and it was amazing. I've turned more thrifty, too--I always reused ziplock bags before, but I admit I'd toss them if they required more than a rinse. Now I wash the more dirty ones (from storing dough, etc.) with soapy water!

Joe, I’ve got a pound of beautiful, dried cranberry beans from Rancho Gordo, and I’ve got a copy of Cool Beans. Recommendations for which recipe or two pairs best with these beauts? Looking for a main course. Loving the book, and everything I’ve made so far has been a winner.

Thanks! So glad to hear it. Boy, do I love cranberry beans. 

You should make Lalo's Cacahuate Beans -- they're simple and yet so complex and flavorful. Cacahuate is Spanish for "peanut," and the name of the same bean as cranberry/borlotti.

They're also great in Orecchiette With Borlotti Beans, Bitter Greens and Lemony Bread Crumbs!

They are mellower cooked than raw. While I like them raw, we have also enjoyed them sauteed (you can even throw in the greens for the last few minutes) or halved and grilled.

Juice the lemons afterwards, and freeze in ice cube trays. When hard, store lemon cubes in a freezer storage container or zipper bag.

So I am delivering a meal to a family with a recovering coronavirus patient (yay!) and they are putting all their delivered foods into the oven when they get them. I a, making baked ziti and sweet potato biscuits, packed into disposable aluminum pans, covered in foil. I was going to give them to them unbaked... to bake at 375 for 30min (biscuits call for 24min at 400). How far in advance can I safely make the food and let it sit in my fridge and how far in advance can I make the biscuits and they will still be good? Delivery is for 4pm and I would like to make at least some of the food the day/night before. I will drop them in the specified cooler, then text that it is arrived for a no contact delivery.

You can make the ziti a couple of days ahead of time. Cover it. Then, give them the baking instruction as you have described.

The biscuits I am less sure about. If your sweet potato biscuits are similar as other biscuits, you can cut out the biscuits and place them on a baking sheet and freeze them. They store the frozen biscuits in an airtight container. (They should keep for a couple of months that way.) Just tell them to slip the biscuits in the freezer and they can be baked directly from the freezer. Hope that is helpful.

Maybe others have better advice?

Yes, they did.

Please, tell me everything.

Hi, I got a bunch of tarragon to make some green goddess dressing and only used a small portion of it. What to do with the rest? It's such a distinctive flavor. I also put some of it in a jar of white wine vinegar. Any other suggestions?

My girlfriend & I are trying to figure out if we can safely have a couple friends over for a cookout. We start with the thought if they BYO-Everything (food, plates, silverware, cup, folding chair, mask, ...) and eat outdoors, socially distanced, that's no more dangerous than it would be without the food. Then we think about what more can be safely done. Food hot off the grill would be safe if I alone handle the grill tools and don't touch the food going directly onto the provided plate, everyone masked. Similarly a shared bottle of wine would be fine if only the bringer pours into glasses brought from home (everyone masked). Unmasking for eating/drinking only while socially distanced. We'd provide soap, sanitizer, chlorine wipes, and toilet seat covers. The difficult part seems to be the bathroom. Nuke it before & after the cookout with bleach. Provide seat covers. Leave the house doors open to access the bathroom, regularly wipe the door knobs. Seems do-able, right? Am I missing something?

You should probably stick to your original plan, the socially-distant picnic. 

Hi free rangers! I normally love cooking but I'm dealing with pregnancy morning sickness and can't handle it right now. Could you and the chatters please share your favorite packaged/frozen meals that taste decent and are somewhat healthy? (Right now my diet is mostly pasta and bagels, so the bar for healthy is pretty low.) So far I've discovered Amy's frozen burritos and the packs of Tasty Bite Indian food are not bad. Thanks! And hope to be cooking with you all again soon.

Ok, so, I think there is ZERO shame about using frozen foods. You have to do whatever it takes to a) make it through this stressful time and b) not throw up :) Anyway, I am a huge huge fan of whatever Trader Joe's has: dumplings, fried rice, their orange chicken. They even have really tasty pelmeni (russian dumplings) that are great. Their frozen Indian food is also great. Hope you feel better soon and stay healthy!

I made lemon curd and it is much more tart than expected. Any suggestions for ways to use it up? I have all the standard baking ingredients, plus heavy cream and cream cheese. (By contrast, I made orange curd last week and it never made it anywhere other than on a spoon, straight into my mouth.) Thank you!

How bout a pie? Fold whipped cream into the lemon curd to cut it, and spread it in a blind-baked (or graham cracker) crust. If you want more sweetness, even, top with a sweet meringue!

I have a 1.75 pound package of short ribs taking up room in my freezer. I would like to use it up, but have never cooked this kind of meat, and all the recipes I'm finding are for much larger quantities of meat. I also don't have a grill or instapot, but I do have most ingredients. Thanks!

You can just slightly reduce the ingredients in this recipe: 

Braised Short Ribs With Star Anise and Lemongrass

Or cut this recipe in half: 

Braised Short Ribs of Beef

I was gifted two small tin boxes of ground organic cinnamon that is strangely almost tasteless. Is there something I can do to it to amp up the flavor, even if that something is using twice as much? I use cinnamon on lots of things, including French toast (which I'd like to make tomorrow), applesauce and all sorts of dishes where it doesn't obviously "belong."

Bummer! Depending on what you're doing, you can bloom or toast the cinnamon first. That's something you often do in Indian food, but for the French toast, you could maybe do that in butter? And sure, in something like applesauce, presumably you can increase a little at a time until you feel the taste is right.

First, thank you for the tofu chorizo recipes referenced last week. I doubled it because my husband is vegetarian and I am always looking for options for him. He loved it — any additional suggestions on how to use it? Secondly, years ago I read about freezing tofu, then thawing it to make it really easy to squeeze out the water. I am curious why I rarely see recipes employe that method. Is there a downside to doing that? Obviously you have to think a little bit ahead of time to freeze the tofu, but I usually keep a couple of boxes in my freezer for that purpose.

So glad he likes the tofu chorizo! I use it in burritos, on tostadas and tacos, sprinkled on salads, on roasted sweet or regular potatoes. Would be nice in a pasta dish, too, I'd think! Sprinkled on top of gratineed vegetables? Mac and cheese!

Yes, I've done that freezing-tofu method. I think it's especially good when you want to give the tofu a chewier texture. I find that wrapping it in towels and microwaving it for a minute or so also helps expel a lot of liquid -- and doesn't require planning!

Tofu Chorizo

I started a no kneed bread on a 12-24 hour rise around 9pm Monday night, intending to make it with Tuesday’s dinner and then life got in the way and dinner plans changed. Do you think it’s still ok to bake this afternoon? Should I expect anything unusual? Thank you!

If it's rising at room temperature, it could be overproofed. Still, I'd bake it and eat it. Homemade bread, even if not amazing, is still pretty great. Plus, that amazing smell in your house is priceless!

Thank you. Well, I woulda aced that category, obviously, but I'm afraid I woulda been done in by "Still Standing in Europe," so...

I've seen a surprising number of web sites that translate volumes for different sized pans. It's wonderful to be able to type in "substitute for 13x9x2" and get instant results!

Sure, the info is out there, but you can also easily calculate yourself. It's just not something built into our system at the moment.

What about parfaits? If you don’t have on hand, make some quick cake, and layer in glasses like a trifle with fruit? Do the same thing with yogurt and granola? There’s always a Swiss roll filled with lemon curd instead of jelly.

I've done this before and it made the hummus "fluffy" (only word I can think to describe it). It changes the texture of the finished product. I think it's called Israeli hummus? Try it and see what you think! I kind of got into it...

Yes, when cooking the chickpeas -- but with canned chickpeas?

Not sure if this method for raw radishes will disguise them sufficiently, but I love them grated, then smothered (read: disguised) with thick creamy bleu cheese dressing and a little cracked black pepper.

I always freeze my knobs of fresh ginger as soon as I buy them. I wash and freeze unpeeled. When grating frozen ginger the peel just sort of melts and there is no trace of it. It is a great way to always have fresh ginger available for cooking and even in gingersnaps!

Yup, this is my strategy too! Although I do tend to scrape the peel off with a spoon first.

America's Test Kitchen recommends this to soften the beans and remove the "skin" for creamier hummus.

Ah, yeah, looking at that now. I'm sure it works, but ... so does a Vita-Mix. Those skins don't stand a chance.

Update on my issue- I wrote in a few weeks ago about a sourdough starter that yielded bricks. After talking it through with a friend of mine, I got a feeding regimen that woke up my slacker yeast, and a recipe with higher hydration. Those combined gave me nice, airy sourdough that we didn't have to take a jackhammer to! On freezing cheese, I've been able to successfully freeze sliced cheese as well. Just put a piece of parchment paper between each slice before you stick it in a freezer bag. It's a little time consuming, but now we can save by buying in bulk, and still have the convenience of pre-sliced cheese.

Thanks for following up!

Grabbed a bunch of tuna last time I was at the supermarket and got one can of oil-packed in among the water-packed cans. I assume there's a higher and better use for it than tuna salad -- educate me!

I received a substitution in a grocery box. Turkey chops. Never heard of them. Any suggestions for a yummy preparation? We love turkey so no doubt they’ll be delish.

Turkey chops are just thick cuts of turkey breast, right? I imagine they would be good smothered in a sauce. I only saw one recipe in our Recipe Finder that called for "turkey chops" and it was for a poblano banana sauce.

Think about recipes for sauces for boneless, skinless chicken breasts and you should be good.

tired vegetables? I haven't been to the grocery store in 2 1/2 weeks and I'm trying to make it to three. I have the following very tired looking vegetables: 1 wizened yellow pepper, a lot of celery, 1 regular cabbage, 1 purple cabbage. I'll probably just eat the pepper, its the celery and the cabbage that are the issue. It is cold enough to roast if that works. Sautee? I have some home made stock. That should help, right? I'm getting low on protein without a major defrosting project, but I have some tofu.

If you have tofu and want to use it, I'd go with a stir-fry, as you hint at.

Or soup, if you want to use that stock.

I suggest cutting the peels into smaller pieces and drying them. They if you have any whole spices such as cloves, allspice, and/or star anise, combine them, put some water in them, and voila, you have potpourri for simmering. I put them in a small cup with water and nuke them in my microwave oven for about 30 seconds. Regarding how to dry: the quick and easy way is to simply place them on a sheet of newspaper and stick them in your car when (if?) the sun is shining. Can dry within a day or two and has the added benefit of making your car really nice.

Just use it like pumpkin... but that doesn’t mean baking. Use it in recipes for soup or something else. There are plenty of savory recipes.

Sure! But what's wrong with the muffins? Sounds good to me!

I'm baking more than usual, like so many, and I like to use reusable containers as much as possible rather than ziploc bags. If I cut a sheet cake into squares and put them into those sturdy carry-out containers that have black bottoms and translucent white tops, there is space above the baked goods -- is this OK? Do I have to stuff waxed paper in the gap? I'm never sure how much head space to leave with freezing things.

Honestly, I tend to think baked goods tend to hold up best when something is wrapped directly on their surface. Otherwise, you risk freezer burn and off flavors. If you want to use those containers, can you wrap the pieces in plastic wrap or at least cover the surface? I really think it will help, and you can of course reuse. At the very least, I would put the paper directly on the surface of the cake to form a good barrier.

Do you have a foolproof — or close to it — method of cutting a 1 pound block of butter into quarters?

My only foolproof method is to use a scale.

I have started quick-pickling everything to use up veggies before they go bad. I know they will lose their crunch over time, but does the acidity of the brine, in theory, make them good for practically ever? I'm the only one who eats them in my house so it takes awhile to get through some of the jars.

I don't know about ever. I'd say aim for withing a few month.

quick pickles

ARTICLE: You don’t need a lot of time to make — and then eat — great pickles

I have cooked my cranberry beans and am looking at making that recipe tonight!

It's a good one, IMHO.

We've been cooking rather a lot of bacon lately (our local restaurant sells it in 5-pound blocks) and I've been pouring the delicious leavings into a cup that sits next to the stove. I know it doesn't need to be refrigerated, but am I supposed to be straining out the brown bits? If it stays kind of sloshy instead of congealing into a solid block, does that indicate some kind of problem?

Yes, I would be straining out the solids. And you could refrigerate to make it last longer, because it can go rancid, especially since you've got it next to the toasty stove. I think temp determines whether it's solid or liquid. Probably next to the stove it's pretty warm, right? I suspect that's why it hasn't congealed.

Yes, I always keep mine in the refrigerator. 

Happy Quaranday, all! Could you help my husband and I settle a question (because what else is there to do these days but debate obscure topics)? We want to order fresh (head-off, shell on) Royal Red shrimp from FL for a special occasion, but to make it worth the expense, we'll have to buy quite a lot. I figure we can just freeze what we don't eat immediately, but husband thinks you shouldn't freeze deep water crustaceans. What think you? Thanks!

Yeah, you can freeze them. John Martin "Hoppin' John" Taylor wrote about royal reds for us many years ago -- 2008 -- and while I can't find the story on the site, I refreshed my memory in Nexis, and he talks about buying some frozen and thawing them, while he quotes chef Tory McPhail, then of Commander's Palace in NOLA, as telling a conference audience: "If you can find them, buy as many as you can, take them home and freeze them," he told the audience. "Hands down, one of the best pieces of seafood I've ever eaten in my life." 

Here are a few recipes John provided us, tailor-made for using these shrimp:

Royal Red Shrimp in a Fennel and Tomato Court Bouillon

Royal Red Shrimp Salad With Fennel, Oranges and Red Onion

Shrimp With Ouzo

Retired math teacher here: Cutting diagonally will yield 4 equal quarters. Of course, they won't be rectlineal.

I, too have (boneless) short ribs in my freezer. I'm planning on making bulgogi this weekend.

Very jealous. 

What Kari wrote.

I'm hoping Free Range readers will help save another, really iconic place from its impending closure, in this case not because of the pandemic but a business disagreement. The place is Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe, DC's first combo restaurant and bookstore, at Dupont Circle. There's an article about it elsewhere in today's paper, by Daniel Drezner. I know it's mostly a bookstore, and mostly I go there because it's almost the only place I can find collections of challenging crossword puzzles, but I've also spent many, many hours and many, many dollars at the cafe/restaurant over the years, since it first opened in the 1970s. Even for blind dates -- you meet in an agreed-to section of the bookstore then have coffee and dessert in the restaurant. It's also of historic importance because of the investigation into the Clinton-Lewinsky relationship, as the original owner, Billy Kramer, refused to turn over to Ken Starr's investigators info about Lewinsky's book purchases. But for our purposes, it serves delicious food and drinks, and is open late and has outdoor seating. And it's really in the heart of Dupont Circle, which to some of us is the heart of the city.

Thanks for this. Indeed, the owner says he's ready to move it out of Dupont Circle, so it will hopefully live on, but I agree that the location is central to its identity, and it's so full of history. I have such fond memories of going there as a college intern in the 1980s! Some of my oldest memories of D.C., indeed.

Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle, R.I.P.

I made that casserole for the first time in my over 70 years of life. It wasn't bad at all, but I think it will be a while before I make it again.

This partially from scratch one we did for Thanksgiving was so good! First time I actually liked that dish.

French's Green Bean Casserole With From-Scratch Mushroom Sauce

RECIPE: French's Green Bean Casserole With From-Scratch Mushroom Sauce

So I have taken to buying pea shoots at my farmers market. So far I have used them only in salads, but I was wondering what else to do with them, maybe pretend they are parsley (I never have that since my husband dislikes it, even the flat leaf, except when I need it for tabouleh once or twice a year).

What about making pesto with them? It sounds really spring-like and delightful to my mind's palate!

Dear Free Range Team, Thanks so much for doing these chats. I have a quick question about adding olives to a no knead sourdough recipe. When should I add them-first mixing, resting, refrigeration, resting or last rising? I’m using the King Arthur no knead sourdough recipe. Thanks!

In Jim Lahey's no-knead olive bread recipe, they go in right from the beginning!

You know times are strange when I am moved to excuse my very basic question. Things in my oven seem to take much longer to bake--10 to 20 minutes longer--than the recipe calls for. I even (safely) borrowed an oven thermometer to check the temp and it was only off by four degrees. Is this common and how much of a difference does that four degrees really make? After a few times of strictly adhering to the recipe and ending up with a 3/4 baked cake or soupy quiche, I now just add 10 minutes. How are temperature and cook/bake time determined for a recipe?

Hmm. Well, with good, tested recipes, the temp and time are determined through ... testing! If this is something you've been experiencing across lots of recipes from a wide variety of sources, I'm surprised your oven isn't off by more than 4 degrees, which really wouldn't make much difference, no. 

Or, since you open by saying it's been an unusual experience to be cooking, maybe this is a relatively new phenomenon based on a limited range of recipes? If so, honestly it could be that the recipes themselves are suspect.

But let me take the opportunity to say something I've said before: The best recipes give you a non-time cue, too, and really those are the most important cues. Because things can indeed be variable, in terms of the size and freshness of ingredients, in ways that can affect the time. Now for baked goods, are you looking for recipes that use weight measures? That's the most dependable.

put a ruler next to one side of the block, find the center, cut in half. Move the ruler to the next side (perpendicular to the first) and do the same thing. Couldn't be simpler.

Due to an hyperactive period of making lemonade, I have a lot of zest in the freezer. In addition to some of the other ideas mentioned here, it also quite delightful on bread/toast with a little butter and honey! I spread it on the butter to make sure there are no clumps, then drizzle the honey.

Sure, why not? Drain, rinse, add water, onion, bay, garlic, salt, baking soda - simmer 20, drain, blend. Canned beans need all the help they can get...

If you want, sure!

I've never managed to roll up the cake part. Is it possible to just cut the cake into squares and layer them with the filling? How large should the squares be, or does it matter?

I'm not totally envisioning what you mean, sorry! Do you mean just cutting the cake into squares and stacking it like a layer cake? Sure, you can do that and make them any size you want. I don't know what size pan you're making but cutting into quarters could work.

Obviously don't know what recipe you're doing, but have you done the thing where you roll the cake up immediately (I think typically with a towel) so it has the "muscle memory" once it cools? Then you unroll, fill and reroll.

Thanks for your answer. I know kombu is a seaweed, and different from nori. I’m trying to figure out if the package of generic dried seaweed I have (from British Colombia, if it matters) is kombu. Would it be labeled as such?

I would think it would be labeled as kombu or kelp, yes. Check with the company?

I can't fit those large boxes of frozen pizza in my freezer. I'm wondering if my freezer is unusually small or if others have the same "problem."

The curse of the side-by-side. Been there.

Hate my side-by-side, too. Have been fantasizing about those French-door refrigerators with the freezer on the bottom. Or, of course, a chest freezer!

I have a ton of leftover steamed broccoli which I'd like to incorporate into a savory main dish. For some reason my mind is going toward pasta with chopped toasted walnuts and fresh sage leaves. Can you explain what recipe I might have seen that has me thinking that way, and any advice like which pasta, how much of what ingredients?

While I can't think of a recipe, I think (and I just suggested pesto to another chatter, albeit with pea shoots), all these flavors might be terrific whirred in a blender to form a pesto! I think the added bonus of that is you can use up ALL of your steamed broccoli and then freeze extra pesto for future meals. Your future self will thank your present self :)

So i found some fresh horseradish root a couple weeks ago, and now it's a bit shriveled, sort of like fresh ginger that shrivels. If i can peel it, how do I make horeseradish sauce?

You grate it and combine with sour cream, mustard, vinegar, s&p, like so.

they are soooo good sauteed--look for a Chinese recipe!

in order to mix them into your scrambled eggs!

Oh my! Brilliant.

My husband made me a lot of fried rice using frozen vegetables. It's quick, easy, and hit the spot. I also ate a LOT of frozen curly fries. Hope you're through the morning sickness phase soon!

My overwintered sage plant is trying to bolt and I really like the fresh taste. Can I put the leaves in oil and freeze them in flattened ziplocs? How much oil to how much leaf?

Follow this formula for Basil Paste, and you'll be good.

Besides savory main dishes, consider serving cold dressed with Italian or vinaigrette dressing, and marinated up to overnight.

for cutting butter diagonally. Such an easy thing to figure out, so why haven't I? Thank you!!!

I asked last week about making english muffins without a cast iron pan or griddle - and I'm fairly certain my question caused you actual physical pain so my apologies!! But - using a regular, very heavy pan worked perfectly and I am the very happy owner of a bunch of english muffins! Thomas is never getting my money again. Thank you so much!

Here's Becky's recipe in case you would like to try this yourself: So long, Thomas’s: These no-knead English muffins are the ones to beat (I can vouch for their deliciousness.)

Hi all,

Thank you, as always, for joining us this week.

We love answering your questions and hearing about what you're cooking up in your kitchens.

Hope to see you next week.

In This Chat
Ann Maloney
Ann Maloney is the Food team recipes editor.
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and author of "Cool Beans." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a staff reporter for Food and writes a weekly column on casual dining.
Tamar Haspel
Tamar Haspel, a freelance writer based in Cape Cod, has been writing about food and health for the better part of two decades. She writes The Post's Unearthed column.
Kari Sonde
Kari Sonde is the Food editorial aide.
Mary Beth Albright
Mary Beth Albright is the Host and Editor of Food Video at The Washington Post.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer at the Post.
Olga Massov
Massov is a Food team assignment editor.
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