The Washington Post

Free Range on Food: The Grilling Issue

May 21, 2014

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

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat! Hope you are enjoying our grilling issue -- we had fun putting it together! We have Jim "Smoke Signals" Shahin in the house today, helping answer ANY and all grilling q's; did you enjoy his treatise on the mysteries of the human attraction to smoke as much as we did? 

There was also Tim Carman's newfound love of Japanese-style grilling, Carrie "Spirits" Allan's ode to the use of smoke in cocktails, Carol Blymire's helpful resource guide to buying her favorite cuts of meat, poultry and seafood for the grill; and more.

All of the above will be here to help answer questions -- well, strike that. I think Carman might be too busy finishing up a story to join us, but if you have q's for him I'll email them his way and get answers for you. 

And we'll have a couple of giveaway books for our favorite chatters today, so make the q's and comments stimulating!

Let's do this.

I wanted to thank Joe (and Etto) for the celery salad recipe a few weeks ago. I made it last night for my better half's birthday dinner and it was a hit. The only snag was how long it takes to peel celery as the peeler kept getting clogged. It's always fun to try some of those unusual ingredients (Chinese celery in this case) that I see at the big markets and have no idea what to do with them.

So glad you liked it. I can't get enough, really. It's sublime.

Hi. I frequently use either whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour in muffins, cakes, cookies, etc. I'm reading the Green Market Baking Book (which looks great) and the author, Laura Martin, is saying she does not care for white whole wheat's "gritty texture." I had thought I was using the same product despite the two different names. Any thoughts about which is better for baking? Is there any reason I should prefer one to the other? Thanks.

I'm a bit confused by your confusion! Do you mean you thought whole wheat pastry flour and white whole wheat flour were the same? They aren't, as you have deduced. Pastry flours are lower in protein (9% in King Arthur's, for example), meaning they make a more tender baked good -- less gluten formation. White whole wheat flour is closer to regular all-purpose, though a little higher in protein (13% to about 11.7%). The white whole wheat is better for baking in general, as you can use it like all-purpose. You do get a slightly different texture, because it still contains the wheat germ. But I like that. Recipes that call for pastry flour are specifically designed to take advantage of its different qualities.

Hope that helps!

The Greek Deli on 19th NW betwen L and M sells them -- they have a couple of shelves of grocery items along the sides of the store. I think Vace on Connecticut sometimes has them too. They are pricey for dried beans -- I've never seen them anywhere (even at a CA farmer's market) for less than $8 a pound. Maybe that's why they are not a grocery store staple? They are totally worth the price, and make a fine substitute for meat in Italian veal-parmesan type dishes. And here is a recipe to prove it: mix about 2 cups of cooked gigantes, one jar of good-quality tomato sauce, a couple of handfuls of uncooked farfallini, and 2-4 oz each (depending on taste) of ricotta and mozzarrella in a baking dish or casserole dish. Add (or not) some extras -- capers, black olives, blanched Brussels sprouts/cauliflower/broccoli. Cover and bake at 400 for about 40 minutes. That's it. The result is a somewhat sophisticated comfort food that takes pretty much no prep, and the leftovers will make you the envy of the breakroom.

Thanks, thanks, thanks!

Any luck with the Ceiba recipe? XOXO

Yep, we got it. This is an achiote-spiced gnocchi with spring vegetables, for other chatters who might not remember the question. We haven't had a chance to test it or to make it more reader-friendly (it could use some streamlining, IMO), but you're welcome to email us at, and we'll send you what they sent us.

Hi Jim - Arby's has been really advertising their new smokehouse brisket, saying it's "smoked with real smoke from real fire for at least 13 real hours." That seems like an awful long time to smoke brisket. Of course, that's a commercial thing, and NO substitute for real Texas brisket - but what are your thoughts? Thanks!

       Funny you should ask. I tried the Arby's smoked brisket sandwich and doubted myself for actually liking it. How was that possible, I wondered. Was I just in a particularly forgiving mood? So, I went back and tried it again. And, again, I thought it was pretty good.

       I've been wanting to find out more about what they are actually doing (lots of sins are committed under the "we smoke for X number of hours"). But, fact is, of all the fast-food bbq at non-bbq places, I think the Arby's brisket sandwich is better than I had any reason to expect it would be and it is actually pretty good. 

       Oh, and, no, 13 hours is not too long to smoke brisket, deepening on the size of the brisket, its fat content, and the temperature. Some briskets are smoked for 18 hours and more. 

My friends are getting married this weekend and are doing a wedding cookie table. Unfotunately, my oven is broken. Do you have suggestions for the best no bake cookies?

Hi, I have been a vegetarian for many years, and my husband recently decided to join me. He has often grilled burgers for himself during the summer, and we were thinking of trying our hand at grilling pizza as a way to continue using the grill regularly. I am interested in your tips on how to grill pizza effectively, thanks!

We may have a piece by Mr. Shahin on this later this year, but basically, you want to sear the dough on the hotter side of the grill; turn it over and move to the cooler side; then add (minimal) toppings, cover and cook until done. We had a piece several years ago that got into these tips, but it's time for an update, don't you think?

I recently bought the Kettle Pizza setup, which is a different animal: It turns your kettle grill into more of a pizza oven, with stone on the bottom, heavy steel on the top, and an open front, so you can slide the pizza in and out. People are clocking 800 degrees in these things -- I'll report back on how it goes after I inaugurate it this weekend.

For Smoke Signals: I have a Weber kettle grill, but I want to get into smoking - especially pulled pork, etc. Are there any decent smokers on the market that won't cost me a house payment? Do I need an offset smoker?

    Depends on how well you want to understand what you are doing. If you want to really understand smoke, yes, start with an offset smoker. 

     Do they leak smoke? Yes. Are they inefficient? Yes. But you will come to be one with the fire. It's sort of the difference between fishing in a stocked pond and sport fishing for marlin. 

      You can get a cheap offset for about $300 at chain hardware stores. You'll stay up babying the food.  At the risk of getting all mystical on you, you will have a bond that links you to the ancients. Oh, and in terms of flavor: true wood smoke just can't be beat. 

From Carol: You need a Big Green Egg. Because they are awesome.

Doesn't fermentation often impart a sour flavor to food? Aren't we satisfied with a smaller portion of European-style yogurt because it is more sour than the sweeter American-style yogurt? Could the ancients have employed fermentation as a way to stretch out food supplies by decreasing consumption?

Interesting, but as someone who loves sour foods, fermentation doesn't slow my consumption in the SLIGHTEST.

Have a graduation open house coming up and want to grill lamb. Is there a "special" smoke or way to get a good flavor for lamb?

       Whether for a leg of lamb or kabobs, I like a nice combination of grill and smoke flavor. Establish an indirect fire. Grill for a little bit over direct heat, then move the meat over to the cool side. Smoke until done. 

       I like fresh herbs and lemon as a seasoning and, for a complex smoke flavor, a mix of woods, such as pecan, apple and hickory.

I was happy to see mezcal in the spirits column today. I recently bought a bottle of La Fogata and have had trouble finding a good cocktail recipe to complement its intense smoky flavor. I'd like to try the recipe in today's paper, but the head note about the chili liqueur was missing. Where can I find it? Also, any other suggestions for how to enjoy mezcal, or websites with good ideas?

Hey there! Here's the link to the recipe online. But to save you the effort of clicking, Ace Beverage is carrying Ancho Reyes now. I expect others may be as well (or will be soon--it's terrific). As to general mezcal cocktails, you might try this Blood & Sand variation, this Paloma riff, and then there's a nice roster of cocktail eye-candy from Food & Wine. (There are plenty of tequila cocktails that transfer well to mezcal, of course, since tequila is simply a specific kind of mezcal.) 

Hi! Tried to make a Chinese brown sauce from the Forks over Knives cookbook that called for arrowroot powder as a thickener. The sauce tasted fine, but it never thickened. I added additional arrowroot powder, but still no change. Followed cookbook directions of combining ingredients, then heating on medium heat. I used Bob's Red Mill Arrowroot. Is there some other type that I should have used? Or some technique that I'm missing? Thanks!

Did you mix the arrowroot with any liquid first? Like with cornstarch, you need to form a slurry. Also, based on what I'm reading, arrowroot doesn't like to be cooked at high heat or for a long time.

I get way too many vegetables from my CSA, so I freeze (or pickle) a bunch of it for later. I figured that freezing green beans would be great, except that when I did that last year, they were pretty darn mushy when I unfroze them. I steamed them and then froze them, nothing too special. Is there something I can do to make sure they are not so mushy?

Well, you can blanch and ice-water shock the beans before freezing, but I know cooks who have frozen raw green beans in vacuum-sealed bags and say they're just as good (if not better) than the blanched ones. Frozen beans will never be as great as fresh ones, but one thing you can do is just go with the flow and cook them for a long time instead of expecting them to be crisp-tender. Try a recipe like my Tomato-Braised Green Beans and New Potatoes, which I designed for use with frozen ones.

I just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU for taking my question about an easy birthday cake recipe to make for myself. I'm still sifting (pun intended) through the recipes you and the chatters posted, but I'm leaning towards the Black Magic Cake that someone suggested with your suggested fluffy white buttercream frosting. Very excited!

Black Magic Cake with peanut butter frosting is one of the greatest things the cake gods (or, uh, my mom for me as a child) ever baked.  But the buttercream would be lovely, too!

A few years ago I bought a Weber Smokey Mountain. I think this is a good solution for the average person. I've made lots of pulled pork, ribs and brisket on my WSM. They're easy to use too!

     I completely agree. 

I need to start reducing my sugars and carbs and I would love some guidance on vegetarian recipes for low GI grains please.

Lower-glycemic index grains include barley, buckwheat, spelt, wild rice, quinoa, bulgur. Here are some possibilities for you:

Curried Barley and Quinoa Cakes.

Asian Bean and Barley Salad.

Beet, Kale and Bulgur Soup.

Zucchini With Bulgur.

Wild Rice, Peach and Avocado Salad. 

Buckwheat Tabbouleh.

Kasha Potato Salad.

Hi, I've just volunteered for a fun but challenging job and would like to ask for some guidance from you and the assembled chatters. We're going to share a house on OBX for a week next month. There's been some chatter about a program to harmonize cocktails with dinner, and I've offered to make nibbles to go with. (I've shared the great article about springtime cocktails, BTW.) At this point I don't know what the menus will be, but do you any suggestions for sources on how to pair nibbles with mixed drinks? Love the chat, thanks!

When it comes to making cocktail nibbles you can NEVER go wrong with spiced nuts. Check out this piece we ran last year, and scroll to the bottom for the recipe list. 

The other thing that immediately comes to mind? Cheese straws. These blue cheese straws by John Martin Taylor are amazingly addictive.

But that's not all! You could also take inspiration from David Hagedorn's piece a few years back on retro cocktail nibbles: Think deviled-eggy crab dip, party mix, veggie buffalo spread, and more.

My family (5 adults) is going camping this weekend. We'll have a fire pit, maybe a grill, and a mini fridge. There's going to be a drive of probably 4 hours from home to the campsite, and I expect we'll stop at a store on the way down. We will have a cooler. Thoughts on what we can make? We'll do s'mores, of course, and I really want campfire popcorn--do they still make that Jiffy Pop with the handle? We thought about steaks, but I'd like to see if there's something more...unusual that we can cook over the fire. Maybe some breakfast suggestions?

Pick up some sausages (maybe with sage or rosemary) and roast those over the fire in the morning for breakfast.  Not only will they taste amazing, but the glorious smell is sure to roust all sleepyheads from their tents.

I loved Jim Shahin's article on smoke, but I wonder, is there a difference between smoke's effect from meat versus vegetables?

       Yes, there's a difference. You don't get the same depth of smell from vegetables as from meat, primarily because of the fat content in the meat and the breakdown of meat's amino acids. 

       One researcher I spoke with said he always oils and salts his vegetables before putting them on the grill to try and get a bit more of that smell. 

Really great story on smoke this morning I love the smell of smoke. Are there different kinds of smoke, for example, like from cigarettes for whatever else???

   Yes, smoke results from whatever is being burned. The chemicals in cigarettes are different from those in meat, so the smell is different. 

Hi all - hope you can help. I'm hosting a dinner and serving this Creamy Asparagus Soup With Seared Scallops as a first course. Ideally, I'd like to make the soup in advance (simply to avoid having to cook up a storm just before dinner). Would something like this hold for a day in the fridge, or would the color go off (like the way basil turns dark after pureeing)? What do you think? Thanks!

I think you'd be fine holding this for a day. Asparagus doesn't seem to lose its color -- and shocking it in ice water would help prevent that in any case. (That's a good trick with basil, btw: Blanch and shock it for pesto in order to keep it from turning brown.)

You WILL wait until right before serving to sear the scallops, though, right? Yes, you will!

We are lucky to get to bring our own liquor for our fall wedding of 175ish people. We're just planning to do beer and wine, and I'm good on the beer. But how does one even go about picking wines? My fiancé doesn't drink, so he won't be any help on this one, and I'm a fan of the $10-15 bottles. Any tips on choosing crowd-pleasing wine that we can buy by the case in the DC area and won't break the bank? Thanks for all your advice over the years!

Dave McIntyre says:

For a sparkler, I suggest a Spanish Cava like Segura Viudas or Jaume Serra Cristalino, or perhaps something like Domaine Ste Michelle in Washington State. For a white, a nice crisp Picpoul de Pinet from France, such as Hugues Beaulieu, can do the trick - and it's even available by the box for further savings. Columbia Crest Chardonnay if you want to stay domestic. For cheap reds, there's no better bargain than the Cousino Merlot from Chile.

Mr. Shahin: First, thank you for the terrific article; I see short ribs on our menu this long weekend! Okay, onto the question: I asked last week whether the Big Green Egg was worth the (what I think is) exorbitant price tag. We own a barrel-style charcoal grill with an off-set box for smoking but my husband really wants an oval ceramic smoker to complement - not replace - our old grill. Is the BGE worth that price tag ($1,200) or are one of the Char-Griller, etc., (sort of a Home Depot Brand) going to get just as much bang for the buck which is closer to $300. What he's looking for is extended, consistent, very low heat with minimal moisture loss. What I am looking for is the ability to crank it up to 700-800 degrees to make pizza. Your insight would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

I'm sure Jim has thoughts on this, but as an owner (and big fan) of the Big Green Egg, I  have to say it's been phenomenal at holding all kinds of temperatures, cooking things evenly ... it's easy to clean and maintain, and I like that it can be both a smoker and a grill and a pizza oven and so much more.  If you decide to go with the Egg, get the largest one you can afford.  The more space, the better.  I thought I'd use mine maybe once a month, or so, but find myself using it weekly, if not more -- even in the winter!  

    From what you are saying that you want, I think a BGE is a great cooker. It does everything you are seeking. 

    A BGE is practically an oven - people cook everything from briskets to cupcakes on them. Another good thing about them is that, unlike a cheap (as opposed to expensive) offset smoker, they last a really long time. 

      Especially if you are getting it as a supplement to that barrel smoker you have, yes, I think it is definitely worthwhile.

As of Friday I will have three fairly large bags of spinach in my fridge. Is there something (healthy) to cook with it that will then freeze/store well since I am just one person at my house? (For the record, I fixed the error and shoudl only be receiving one bag of spinach a week in the future, but need to deal with the overload!) I have been putting it in eggs, stir frys, etc, so something that would use up a lot at once would be awesome.

Same thing happened to me last summer when my neighbor's garden exploded with spinach and she was going on vacation and left me with more than I could handle.  Here's what I did with it:

1) Invited friends over for dinner and served a spinach salad.  Doubled the recipe for the dressing so I could send them home with a small jar of it and a ziploc bag full of spinach (they loved it!)

2) I sauteed a lot of it and made a spinach lasagne.  When you cook it down, it feels like a more manageable amount to work with.  I let the lasagne cool, and then cut it into single servings and froze them.  Perfect to thaw and reheat on those days I knew I didn't feel much like cooking.

I find tapinade is a great drinks fav - a jar of kalamata olives goes a long way. I also like cheese straws - they're actually quite easy, especially if you use a cookie cutter and such a crowd pleaser.

Joe, I made your recipe for walnut oregano vinaigrette whic was a big hit at my brunch. What can I do to make the vinaigrette a little thinner?

You could certainly add a little water, or a little more oil and vinegar.

I've been baking my own birthday cakes since the year I turned 16 -- I was a bit of a jerk about it that year, the last 20-some years I've enjoyed it! When baking the kids' cakes, their choices tend to be around decorations (chocolate that looks like a car, of whatever), and my husband simply has different favorites than I do. Every October I get to make exactly what I want -- last year I even made two -- in whatever flavor using whatever ingredients and at whatever (more or less) cost. Priceless!

You go!

I've decided that my favorite "food group" is soup. Hot, cold, pureed or stew-like, it's just so good. Do you know of any great cookbooks that specialize in soups or other spoon-ready meals?

How about "The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy" by our friend Domenica Marchetti?

Is there a way to make a vegetarian meal on the bbq? If I have friends over I don't want to grill veggies and then cut them up and turn them into a full dish, that's too much cooking when guests are around. Is there something that can be made on the grill and then served right away, as chicken is done?

      Joe will have likely have some thoughts on this, but I think serving grilled or smoked vegetables at room temperature is often the preferred way to do. I often grill Italian antipasti (red bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini, etc.) and keep it in a little olive oil and herb bath with cellophane over it until I'm ready to serve. Smoked eggplant for, say, baba ghanoush is something that, of course, you would have turned into that dish earlier. 

      But if you want to give your vegetables a touch of flame shortly before serving, there is not one that comes to mind that couldn't be set over the fire for a minute or two shortly before serving. But I'd use a vegetable basket for efficiency's sake.

I agree w/Jim. You could also have the rest of a dish ready and then just chop up the veggies into it. That would work well, for instance, with my Smoky Cabbage and Udon Slaw.

I just wanted to thank you for including instructions for smoking on gas grills. I know that many smoke fans dislike gas grils, so I am very appriciative that you included the directions so that those of us with just gas grills can also experience the smoky goodness.

    You're welcome.

Thank you for including the instructions on how to properly use a plank for cooking on a grill. I was given cedar planks for cooking salmon. The only instruction I was told was to soak the plank first. I did not know that I was supposed to heat the plank up first and then turn it over. Thank you for being newby friendly in your recipes.

You're welcome!

Thanks for the suggestions! Looks like I'm bringing spinach salad to the BBQ this weekend and making some lasagna too. I appreciate the help and all you guys do!

Glad to help!

Wikipedia calls binchotan "white charcoal" and says that one of its advantages is that it is almost smoke-free. Was the one you used white, Tim? Hard to tell in the photo. Are you willing to give up smoke?

Yes, that's correct. The purest form of binchotan is the white charcoal. But as I explained in the story, the white binchotan is considerably more expensive, while offering only a few more benefits than the aramaru binchotan that I used.


And while the charcoal looks to be smoke-free to the naked eye, it still imparts a kind of smokiness to the food. I know it's an obscure grilling method, but I really can't recommend it enough. I plan to trot my new toy out multiple times this summer.

If you don't already have a Costco membership, you might want to spring for one! They have 2 packs of the cava from Freixenet (which I like almost as much as the Cristalino) for $15.99 and regularly have the Columbia Crest Chardonnay for $6.99. They also have TONS of other very good options for very cheap prices (and easy to buy by the case).

Hilarious - I grew up with European yoghurt and find American yoghurt very sour and anemic - not nearly as creamy tasting and texture. How much is perspective and what we ate growing up!?! PS - why is it so incredibly difficult to get full cream plain yoghurt at the supermarket?

A group of food-lovin' friends wondered the same thing during a dinner conversation this weekend.  I had to go to 4 grocery stores last week before I found regular, full-fat yogurt.  I asked the dairy case manager at my local Giant why that is, and he told me that it wasn't a big seller and was often in the case past its expiration date.  It's a shame.  

When we got married last year (about the same sized wedding) my husband and I worked with Schneider's of Capitol Hill to buy all of our own wine, beer and liquor. I literally cannot say enough great things about them. We ultimately chose wines in that price range and got excellent wholesale discounts as well as free dropoff. They also can pickup any unopened unchilled leftovers and refund you the cost of the bottles with a very slight ding on the price.

Trader Joe's own brand of "champagne" is very good (doesn't give you a headache) and runs about $9 per bottle. Not sure if they give case discounts but it doesn't hurt to ask.

One thing our friends did was outsource the decision by having a wine tasting party for bridal party where we rated 15 or so wines they were interested in. We had fun and came up with 2 really good reds and whites that happened to be really affordable. They used mostly Trader Joe's wines and we sampled everything from Three Buck Chuck to the $15 bottles and were surprised at the favorites!

PS- meant to add that their manager, Joe, walked us through a tasting and helped us pick all of our very budget-friendly wines.

I have been tasked with making cake balls for a bridal shower and am looking for some interesting flavors that will really stand out (in a good way, not for being strange). Do you have any suggestions? I was thinking one chocolate kind and one non-chocolate kind.

Would you be amenable to doughnut balls? Tiffany MacIsaac, who recently announced she was leaving Neighborhood Restaurant Group, developed these awesome ones for us.

Blueberry-Lime Doughnut Truffles

Blueberry-Lime Doughnut Truffles

Nutella Doughnut Truffles

Nutella Doughnut Truffles

I have found that a pizza stone on the grill makes it easier to regulate the cooking (charring!) of the crust.

Hi all! I'm planning a hot dog/sausage bar for a BBQ this weekend, and would love some suggestions for creative toppings - particularly if they have a regional spin!

Head on over to the farmers market at 14th and U Streets NW on Saturday morning and pick up some Number 1 Sons kimchi.  It's one of the best things to happen to hot dogs in a long time.

Carol sounds like a regular, doesn't she? We're pushing that great kimchi all the time, for good reason. It's available at other places, too; see their web site.

Loved today's smoky section. Jim's story about smoked food was really well done. I thought the discussion of whether smoke can be considered a sixth taste is interesting (I know there was a scientific explanation for why it's not, but I still think it's debatable). I'm always looking for new ways to bring smoke to my food as an apartment-dweller without a grill. Smoked paprika is one of my favorite. I'm thinking of broiler vegetable skewers and basting them with a sauce of honey and smoked paprika. I'd like an interesting mix of vegetables, but want to make sure they are evenly cooked. Any suggestions along those lines? Bell peppers and zucchini seem obvious. I'm thinking portobello, maybe cauliflower if I par-boil a bit. Thanks.

    There are lots of ways to bring smokiness to your foods when cooking indoors: smoked salt, smoked olive oil, a mechanism of about $100 called a Smoking Gun, an indoor smoking box (Camerons Stovetop Smokers are very good), among other products. 

      I have not yet met a vegetable that doesn't take well to smoke. The thing is, you just want to be careful not to over-smoke. Par-boiling a cauliflower before smoking it is a fine idea. (I smoke it entirely on the grill, but that's because I have the ability to do it outdoors.) 

       In terms of evenly cooking different vegetables, try to put together vegetables that cook at relatively the same amounts of time and/or add ones that take a shorter time later in the cooking process.


I see whole, cleaned and scaled porgies at the local Giant. Are they good for grilling? If so, direct or indirect? Butterfly or stuff with herbs or something else? And how do you make Thai black bean sauce that goes so well with crispy striper (rockfish in these parts)?

You can grill a porgy (whole is best) -- but you'll need a fish basket or some other grill basket that's been well-oiled, because they really don't stay together on the grill.   Marinate the porgy for 45-60 minutes in some olive oil, lemon, salt, pepper, garlic, and oregano.  Throw in some chopped shallot if you have it.   Grill for about 5 minutes on each side.

Make sure the fish you're buying is fresh.  It shouldn't have a fishy or "off" smell (like ammonia, bleach, or any smell at all, really).

I was fascinated by the story on Japanese charcoal. That sounds more like a smithing fuel source than a cooking fuel source. I know how hot the coals get from the story; how hot is the cooking temperature when the meat is a few inches away?

I wish I had an infrared thermometer to measure the heat! I can only tell you anecdotally that when I tried to place my hand between the skewers and the binchotan, I could not hold it there for more than a second. The radiant heat was ferociously hot.

I must make those blueberry-lime doughnut balls! If you still wanted to stick with cake balls, these raspberry champagne ones sound amazing. For a chocolate cake ball, maybe try a chocolate malt, flavor or a chocolate peanut butter combination?

We used ACE beverage a couple of years ago for our wedding and they were great. We got a discount, the delivered and picked up and refunded any unused bottles.

I am not a huge lover of sauce. Never have been. I figured out recently why not- bottled bbq sauce is yuk. Homemade bbq sauce is delicious. I used the pioneer woman recipe and it was great. I had all I needed in the pantry or the fridge- nothing fancy: ketchup, brown sugar, molasses, onion, garlic, vinegar, etc. That is the key- make it yourself!

     Agreed. Making your own sauce is easy, cheap, and, you're right, so much better than store bought sauces. 

Bogle makes a very nice Pinot Noir and Petit Sirah for ~$10/bottle, which can typically be found at World Market and sometimes even Target.

I bought a Smoking Gun and love it. One of my favorite things to do is smoke some coarse sea salt. That stuff is FANTASTIC in some homemade caramel.

This sounds good! How do you make it? Recently, I made lasagna for only the second time this time using Lidia's techniques. The best hint from her was how to deal with the noodles: Put some oil in the water to help keep them from sticking together; cook them in batches; scoop out with a skimmer and place on a sheet pan with a kitchen towel; layer the noodles separating each layer with a towel. Boy, did that make it easy to handle them and removed much stress!

I make it differently every time!  Sometimes with tomato sauce, meat, and cheese, and I just add layers of cooked spinach.  Other times, I might make a cheesy bechamel sauce and use brown rice lasagne noodles... maybe toss in some pine nuts and goat cheese or feta.  Lidia's noodle-handling technique is a good one, especially when you're just learning how to make lasagne.  

Hi food chat. I try grilling pizza last week but it was so damn hot when I took it off the grill I bunrned my hadns! DO you have suggestion to get it on to plate without having to touch it! Thakns and godbless.

Of course -- tongs or a peel!

Stuffed vegetables do well on the grill. My favorite: jalepenos with basil, garlic and goat cheese. Stuffed zucchini or eggplant "boats" ... Rotini of sliced squash... Stuffed bell peppers. Drizzle with nice olive oil to finish... tasty stuff.


Have you ever added sea vegetables to your smoothies? I'm trying to add a few more healthy items to my morning protein smoothie. Should I use a powder or something dried? Any recommendations?

I haven't tried it, but I don't see why a little powdered kelp wouldn't work well in something like this.

I am a huge BGE cheerleader and would recommend one to anyone who has an interest in smoking. I know they are expensive but there is a store in Manassas called Dizzy Pig that sells demo models at a discount several times a year. They also make really good seasoning mixes but that is another topic. I am sorry if this sounds like a marketing post but its not. I just love my egg.

We served D'autrefois Pinot Noir at our wedding, which went over well. Pinot's are a good crowd pleaser in general I think. We also like Mark West. Both are available at Total Wine. We offered two whites- one dry, one semi-sweet. I say serve what you like! Have a couple girlffriends over for a tasting party to help you out.

Help--I just found out I have to bring a dessert to a dinner tomorrow night. I will have a very limited amount of time to pull this together, but I really don't want to bring anything store-bought because this is a discerning group of cooks. I think that my hostess is gluten-free, so I don't think I can bake anything. Any thoughts???

Well, you can definitely do gluten-free desserts! Here's our collection.

One example that will make everyone swoon: Nick Malgieri's Torta Divina.

Torta Divina

finally tried grilled asparagus Monday night drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice and garlic and it was a success! Can green beans get the same treatment? Does sesame oil and a soy sauce mix work? Thanks!

Yes, on both -- that sounds great! A basket would be helpful with those beans, I'd say.

But get the LARGE, not the XL. I have both. The LARGE is must easier to get hot and much easier to maintain temp for long periods. I can get five racks of ribs on it with a little ingenuity. Or a ginormous turkey. Or enough oysters to feed a crowd. And we can do an 18 hour pork butt @225F without having to add more charcoal. There are engineering differences in the hinges between the L and the XL -- because the XL lid just weighs SO much. Even after a new hinge set from the manufacturer, it's still hard to get a good seal and maintain a low-and-slow for 12 to 20 hours on the XL. The dimensions are different too -- in terms of the slope of the sides leading down to the fire pit. Not sure if I'm allowed to self-promote, but here's a broad description of how we do it: Brisket (on the L); and a pork butt (on the XL).

You don't actually need a Costco membership to purchase wine/liquor at Costco. If you are there to buy wine/liquor only, Costco will let you do so even if you are not a member.

I would do foil pouches-- stew meat, potatoes, carrots, rosemary, a little water, and a pad of butter. Seal it and throw it in the fire for an amazing stew that is pretty fool proof.

Well, you've cooked us to an internal temperature of 150 on an instant-read thermometer, so you know what that means -- we're smoked!

Thanks for the great q's today, and thanks to Jim, Carol and Carrie for helping with the a's!

Now, for the giveaway books: The chatter who asked about cooking a vegetarian meal on the grill will get Laura Russell's "Brassicas." The "regular guy" who asked about a smoker that won't cost a house payment will get "Fire & Smoke: A Pitmaster's Secrets" by Chris Lilly. Send your mailing info to, and she'll get you your books!

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 staff writer Tim Carman, editorial aide Becky Krystal, Spirits columnist Carrie Allan and Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin. Guest: Carol Blymire.
Recent Chats
  • Next: