Free Range on Food: Memorial Day grilling, pressure cooker recipes and more

May 23, 2012

Talk about the results of our Smoke Signals barbecue sauce contest, get insight on grilling vegetables and get a taste for what pressure cookers can do.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Good afternoon! Are you a griller or a bbq-er? Either way, we've got you covered today, thanks to Smoke Signals' columnist Jim Shahin's 2nd annual barbecue sauce contest (congrats to our three winners!) and Joe Yonan's vegetarian take on grilling for one. They're ready and waiting, here in FreeRange Chatville. So is Jason Wilson, to talk 19th-century spirits or address your general cocktail queries. Jane Touzalin, Tim Carman and Becky Krystal complete the set. 


Two lucky chatters will earn  a) one of the pressure cooker cookbooks reviewed by Jane  or b) "Wild About Greens," source of today's Dinner in Minutes recipe.  Stay tuned for that announcement at the end of the hour. Ready, set, chew....


So like many we are having a bbq this weekend. Grilled pizza, burgers, dogs already on the menu as well as a potato salad with apple, walnut and blue cheese (yum). However I am looking for a veggie side thats not a leafy salad. Something that will hold up to sitting around and that isnt based on carbs (ie pasta, farro etc). Two thoughts were a tomato and feta salad or a guacamole salad but I feel like the flavors clash with the potato salad. Any ideas?? Thanks!


Coleslaw, of course, is a classic barbecue side. Here are a couple ideas from the Recipe Finder database:

* "Instant" Coleslaw

* Steve Adelson's North Carolina-Style Coleslaw

Personally, I'm a big fan of grilled corn. Last year, I tried the technique of grilling the shucked corn wrapped in foil with an ice cube, butter and salt/pepper. It turns out beautifully on a medium-hot fire for about 20 minutes. The kernels don't dry out, and if you want, you can put the corn on the grates for the final few minutes to pick up some grill flavor/char.

You could also turn your finished corn into this terrific salad: Grilled Corn, Peach and Poblano Salad. (The photo is above.)

What are some good uses for the whey I drain from vanilla yogurt? I like thicker, Greek-style yogurt so I drain it, but then I have 1 c or more of whey that I'd like to use. Can it be mixed wtih milk for cereal, cooking, etc., or does it have other "properties" that would cause issues? Alternatively, I'd be happy to drain plain yogurt if that whey is more usable -- but I'd need to know how to give it a vanilla flavor. Not a fan of honey in yogurt, which is what's most often recommended. Thanks.

Whey? No whey! Enough Wayne and Garth humor: As for your question, the simplest thing I'd do with whey drained from vanilla yogurt is use it yes in cereal -- particularly to soak muesli or oats in to soften them for a great cold cereal; also put it in a smoothie. I'm not sure about cooking with it, but since most of the milk fat is gone, it's not going to curdle -- those curds have already happened, in essence, and are the yogurt you kept after draining.

Whey has a traditional use that I think would indeed require you to to use non-flavored yogurt: to preserve other foods. Because there are active cultures in it, you can use it to ferment many foods, from vegetables to sodas, as Sandor Ellis Katz writes about in "The Art of Fermentation," a great new encyclopedic book on the subject.

As for flavoring your yogurt with vanilla, it's as simple as scraped vanilla beans or vanilla extract or paste, plus the sweetener of your choice. Since you don't like honey and granulated sugar wouldn't dissolve in yogurt, you could either use powdered/confectioner's sugar or make a simple syrup with vanilla added to it, or to the yogurt.

Some bread bakers swear by it.

We will be hosting a family from Asia this weekend and they have asked for a typical American cookout. I was thinking old-fashioned potato salad, a green garden salad, corn on the cob, slices of watermelon, chocolate layer cake ... but what meat? Our schedule won't allow for a long barbecue time so we'll need to grill but burgers and dogs just seem so boring... Ideas? Thank you.

How long is long? Could you spare about 40 minutes for Barbecued Chicken Pieces?

Barbecued Chicken Pieces

As I was flipping through a classic cookbook last night I was inspired by two recipes, twice baked spinach potatoes and stuffed zucchini. I thought to myself that it would neat to switch the two. I could use the potato filling in the zucchini skin and use the zucchini flesh in the potato skin. I just need some help coming up with ideas of what to mix with the scooped out zucchini before filling in the potato skin.

How about adapting this recipe from "Plenty" author  Yotam Ottolenghi? It uses short-grain rice plus currants, pine nuts, cinnamon, allspice, clove, mint. But you could replace the rice with the potato flesh. 

Or you could go traditional Italian, using rehydrated dried (or fresh) mushrooms, garlic, eggs, Parm, and the potato instead of breadcrumbs.

I want to give my husband some bottles of wine from the places we went on our honeymoon as an anniversary gift. Could you make some suggestions? Here are the parameters: one each from Italy (ideally lakes region), Spain (southern coast), and Austria. Reds (or port for Spain, or a dessert wine for Italy) (see, I am quite flexible and reasonable), and ranging from $20-80 each. Oh, please, please have them be things I can procure in a store in DC. I will go to two stores if necessary, but. . . Thanks a million.

Dave McIntyre says:

For such a European tour, I would suggest heading to MacArthur Beverages (in the Palisades neighborhood) and asking the advice of their sales crew. You may end up consulting two or three specialists, but at only one stop.  


Italy's lake region isn't really wine country but they may have some. Otherwise, be open to wines from the north, regions such as Alto Aldige or Friuli. At your price point, Piemonte is also in range. 


For Spain, think Priorat from the mountains around Barcelona. But I also wouldn't rule out a fine sherry from the southwest; perhaps a fine sweet Pedro Ximenez as a dessert wine. Ports, from Portugal of course, are also excellent. An aged tawny such as the Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Old ($50) should make any wine lover adore you forever. For Austria, whites are more in order, especially Gruner Veltliner and Riesling. Look for wines imported by Terry Thiese.


The machine-free ice cream recipes posted in last week's chat sounded seriously good. I know this kind of defeats the purpose of what those recipes were posted for, but can I make them with an ice cream machine? For the mango ice cream with cardamom recipe, especially, I don't know if a sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk ice cream base would whip up in the same way as a traditional cream-based ice cream recipe would.

You could probably try it. I recently took an Indian cooking class, and the instructor gave us a kulfi recipe with the option of with the machine or without the machine. Hey, it's not going to taste bad, right? Let us know what happens.

My birthday is tomorrow, and I've decided to celebrate by going on a baking and cooking bonanza, making all the foods I love but for various reasons never make. I've got a pretty good list of recipes, but I've got a hankering for cheese cake and some kind of dessert that features the flavors of banana fosters. I've got lots of cheesecake recipes, but none of them are piquing my interest right now. I was thinking maybe something with raspberry and lemon? Any recipe suggestions? As for the banana fosters, I do have a banana fosters bread recipe and a trifle recipe. But bread just seems a little blah, and the trifle, while giving me the decadence I want, is wayyyy to complicated to make on a day I'm making a bunch of other stuff. Any other ideas for something with banana, caramelized sugar and liquor but that won't take forever? Thanks!!!

How about Lemony Cheesecake? It doesn't call for anything with raspberries, but you could simply put some raspberries on top as a nice garnish.

For a simple Bananas Foster recipe, try New England-Style Bananas Foster or Bananas Foster Sandwich.

Bananas Foster Sandwich

hello, need help! Hosting a baby shower & thinking of doing brunch-- would like to make quiche, but only if I can do ahead and freeze. Does quiche freeze well (fully baked before freezing, I would imagine)? how far ahead of time? Thanks for the chats. Absolutely love you all!

Quiche can be frozen and reheated successfully. Two tips: Make sure the quiche has cooled completely before freezing. This makes sure that there less moisture that could freeze and change the taste/texture of your quiche. Also: Don't try to reheat in a microwave. It tends to turn the crust soggy. Reheat in an oven with foil over the top.

Free Rangers, I have inherited my mother's pressure cooker, which must be at least 50 years old. I have all the parts and even the booklet it came with (my mother was famous for keeping appliances forever--her 1st anniversary waffle iron, complete with instructions, lasted for over 50 years). My only recollection of her using when I was a kid involved yellow split pea soup on the ceiling. Should I try to use this with some of your great recipes, or consign this relic to a museum?

Have you tested it or used it at all? Guess I'd start with a non-staining, non-split substance to see whether it could still create the right amount of pressure for cooking. As long as we're hiking down memory lane, the first thing my mom taught me to do via phone instructions was to get beef tongue going in the pressure cooker....first there was boiling and skimming. Then the application and monitoring of the fizzy, twirling regulator. Definitely made an impression! With no ceiling art to speak of.

Okay if I veer slightly away from pressure cooker theme? :) A friend of mine gave me a recipe for slow-cooker oatmeal that sounds so delicious (with cashews and coconut and topped with fresh banana) that I really want to try it. However, I have only a massive container of rolled oats, while her recipe calls for steel-cut, and for a whole overnight of cooking. Do you have any suggestions for how I might adjust the cooker time? Or should I just skip it and cook on the stovetop for 15 minutes or something? The recipe is an approximate one -- she said "1 cup of oats, 3-4 cups of water/coconut milk, and a handful of cashews." Thanks for any help.

I would save the slow cooker for steel-cut oats, indeed. What I'd do with your rolled oats is soak them at room temperature, or in the fridge, overnight. Or make granola.

We're having a couple over for brunch this weekend and due to some medical issues, he's on a very low-fat (mostly no-fat) diet. Any suggestions for the entree and a dessert? I'm stumped! Thanks for the advice.

You could make potato quesadillas and a nice red or green sauce to go with them (4 grams of fat). Or snapper with stewed tomatoes (4 grams of fat). For dessert, how about a nice fruit salad with mint? It's simple and clean-tasting. Zero grams of fat.

I thought you could make ricotta with whey. It never made sense to me that this would work, especially if it's the whey left over from making cheese (like paneer).

You can, but you need WHEY more than the yogurt strainer is going to have. It takes 1 to 2 gallons of whey to make a single cup of ricotta. The reason is that most of the milk solids were drained out from the first go-round that produced the whey. And, come to think of it, I've seen this suggestion only for whey that is left from making cheese, not for whey from draining yogurt, and there might be a difference.

I have boneless skinless chicken breast tenders in my fridge that need to be used today and a couple of very ripe avocados. Any suggestions for an interesting dish that combines the 2? Or is avocado salsa on cooked chicken pretty much my only option? Thanks!

Pressure cookers has been a subject of this chat on and off for sometime now and you've hinted that there would be content. Is the book review what you were referring to? I'd love to see a bigger feature on the subject, perhaps with a lengthier explanation of how they work and a comparison of some common and recommended brands.

Oh dear. And here we were, thinking we had made good on our commitment by reviewing 2 books and offering 4 recipes (cake, even!), for you, O Consistent Pressure Cooker Chatter (if this is, in fact, you).  We'll keep you in mind for a book today, which may help answer your real questions.  Jane and I have different brands of pressure cookers, but neither one of us has tried an electric model, for instance.  Fodder for a future blog, perhaps.

The other day, faced with unexpected dinner guests, I made a fun half-grilled meal out of my pantry and fridge. It could be a good option for vegetarian guests. I grilled a red pepper (then steamed it in a bag to make a roasted red pepper), tomatoes and a sliced eggplant. While those were grilling, I cooked up some quinoa and couscous. Once the quinoa and couscous had cooled, I seasoned them with salt and pepper and mixed in two eggs, then spread that all out on a parchment lined cookie sheet, flattening it. I baked that until it was set. Then I chopped up the grilled veggies, topped the "crust" with them, and topped that with some crumbled feta. Back in the oven to warm and melt, and we had a pretty cool little tart.

I like it!

LW should check the rubber gasket and make sure any other safety devices are in working order. My mom still has hers from her wedding gifts, 48 years!!!

Yep, that gasket's important too. Does your mom still use hers?

Jason, how do you feel about beer cockails? I'm seeing more and more written about them lately. I have to admit I was initially against them, but I recently saw some recipes that are worth trying. My beer connoissuer friend and I were just chatting, and she also expressed a negative view, but I might be coming around, particularly if you had any recommendations for cocktails you really like.

I like a lot of beer cocktails. I wrote about them here a couple years ago. I included two great ones, from bartender Rachel Sergi (now at Jack Rose). They're involved, but worth it: The Saint (shown below) calls for schwarzbier, Old Tom gin, elderflower liqueur, lemon juice, and tea-infused vermouth (as I said, involved); The Oranj-a-Bloom calls for witbier, rum, orange liqueur, ginger syrup, and mint sprigs (again, involved). Both, however, show off how beer adds complexity to a drink.


I am pulling lots of radishes from my garden and just composting the greens. In the past I tried wilting them in a pan with onions that had been sauteed in bacon grease. They were very bitter. Were the greens too mature? I also will have some beet greens when the beets are ready to pull. Can anything be done with these rather than more compost?

I  made a lovely spaghetti with double radish recently, using both the radishes and their greens for the sauce. They weren't very bitter, but then again my plants aren't your plants! You could try adding a pinch of sugar or honey -- and/or do what I did, and use fresh lemon juice, zest and a generous amount of black pepper. That went over really well. 

Beet greens are also delicious -- you can saute or braise them like you would kale, Swiss chard, etc.

Did I detect a hint of snobbery over the inclusion of hickory smoke flavor in the first sauce? I think smoke flavor is a great way to include the awesome flavor of smoke without getting it in your eyes. Do you disagree?


    Ding, ding, ding. You did detect snobbery. Me, not a fan of Liquid Smoke. I like, you know, Smoke smoke. 

     That said, the sauce won anyway. So, yep, you caught me, I'm a a bbq snob. But a tolerant one. 

My mom and grandma always used a pressure cooker and I grew up loving them. So when I got married, I asked for one. I have had one for over 23 years. It makes roasts cook faster and more tender and I have only had one safety valve melt on me. I love it. I make stroganoff in mine too!

And now you're at the vanguard of "green" cooking. I mus say, making the blueberry pudding cake in the pressure cooker was a small revelation to me.



Maybe two chats ago, there was a question about how often to sharpen knives and one of you Rangers wrote that some chefs sharpen theirs several times a day, or even several times in an hour. This left me wondering, if even the best knives need to be sharpened so often, what's the advantage in having an expensive one? I had figured they stayed sharp longer and cost more for that reason. Thanks.

I'm dubious about the sharpening- several-times-a-day notion. More likely, chefs hone their knives several times a day -- that's a different thing. Honing doesn't actually reshape a dull blade back into  a "V" shape.

Sharpening should only be done when you're knives have become dull. Different manufacturers have different recommendations on when you should sharpen their knives.

The article focused on history of barbequing meats for large groups and then ignored how to barbecue meats for a small number of people. The focus became on vegetables. That is not really what I was looking for in a barbeque article.

That's right -- it's a personal column, and that's where my cooking has gone. I'm not incapable of cooking meat, and do from time to time -- but on the grill it's direct grilling, not barbecue (which is low and slow). It's certainly physically possible to barbecue meats for one, but I'd advise doing larger quantities of something like a pork shoulder, then shredding the meat and freezing it in individual portions. Then you can use that great smoky meat however you'd like here and there. In my cookbook, "Serve Yourself," I have a Yucatan-style pork roast that could easily transfer to a smoker treatment, and also give you three ways to eat it later: in tacos (with a habanero salsa), on a sandwich (with a green mango slaw), and over pasta (in what I call "faux-lognese" sauce).

Ok, Joe, so if you do happen to have 1-2 gallons of whey and you make ricotta with it, what would you call the stuff that is left over after you make ricotta? And at that point have you exhausted its usefulness in the kitchen or is there still something you could bake with it? (Just curious, no interest in trying to recycle my milk 3 times).

I am not sure if you could do it again, honestly. I doubt it, given the quantity reduction the second time.

Thanks for dropping in! That is all.

You're welcome!

Im in a diet that for now requires me to get high protein and low sugar and carbs foods. Im trying to develop my own protein bar (or snack) but every time that I look over the internet I get results for bodybuilding bars (ie tons of carbs) or totally the opposite like a candy bar. Also what type of protein do you suggest for these bars? Whey? Soy? Combination? Im allowed to both of them and so far I haven't had any problems with either. Thanks!

I've never tried to make my own protein bar. Sounds like an interesting project. Have you tried a peanut butter protein bar? One made with natural peanut butter so that it's low in sugars? Here's a recipe that might work.

The BBQ sauce winners look amazing! This brings to mind two hurdles I have in making homemade barbeque that I hope you kind folks can help me overcome. First, I live in the district in a condo, so I can't do true grilling or smoking. But I have previously been reasonably happy with oven slow-roasted, smoky (with smoked paprika and cumin) meats so I think that could work. Any creative ideas for cuts/proteins I should try for just 2 folks? Or some ways to get more of a true experience without breaking a bunch of city ordinances? Second, I love mustard-based sauces but my partner is allergic to mustard (woe is me!). We're from NC, so a vinegar base would seem a natural go to, but I think I'd have more success convincing him to eat the sauce if it were thicker. Suggestions for something that would appeal to a mustard lover but not have mustard in it?

    Man, you got some stuff goin' on. Oven "'cue." Mustard/not mustard sauce. 

     Okay, let's start with the proteins. Since you are already reasonably happy with slow-roasting meats, I'd say to stick with what you know - and expand. If you'vedone, say, pork shoulder, then move on to ribs. If you've done those, move to chicken. Done that? Whole hog. (Just kidding.) The same ideas apply. 

      You can also use a covered cake pan with a rack in it, with some wood chips to create smoke. No ordinances broken. 

      As for a non-mustard sauce that may draw from NC. I'd suggest you go with a Piedmont-style sauce. With bits of tomato in it and/or some ketchup, it draws on the eastern NC style of a pepper-vinegar but adds a little thickness. 

     Hope that helps. 


For Jason Wilson: your comment about Kummel liquor got me remembering a bottle of Grappa (probably a Grappa based liqueur) that I got in Italy a few years ago. I think it was in Sauris in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region though I'm not 100% sure. Anyhow, it was Kummel flavored, which I gathered from the bottle is a wild fennel. It was tasty stuff and now I'm thinking I need to seek out another bottle when I get back there. Thanks for the trip down memory lane... (Oh! And your article once again reminded me that I must remember to try a sidecar)

Interesting. I'm always interested by the wide range of grappas that you find in Italy -- much wider than the banal offerings we find here. I've seen single-grape bottlings like prosecco or Gewurztraminer...though I've never seen kummel or wild fennel! The thing about kummel, however, is that it's also got the cumin-caraway thing going on, which makes it a very savory experience.

I just bought some pomegranate molassas on a whim so I will definitely try the Wild rice, mint and pomegranate salad recipe. My question is, where does one find good looking pomegranates this time of year? I always wonder about recipes that call for seeds because if I can find a pomegranate past January it always looks pretty sickly. I have some seeds in the freezer, but they don't defrost very well and are better suited for extracting the juice. I'll try the recipe regardless, just want to know if I'm missing a good local (DC, MD) source.


I'm happy to report that the arals (seeds) are sold separately, in small clear plastic containers in the refrigerated produce case. I've found them at Whole Foods Markets and at Harris Teeter.  I'm surprised they don't defrost well. Do you mean they stay mushy?

P.S. I saw them at Trader Joe's this past weekend too.

I'm not one for a lot of red meat. Read where lime juice is good on chicken - what else would go into a marinade with lime juice please and thanks!!!!

This Chili Lime Marinade sounds perfect for you.

Chili Lime Marinade

Yes, ma'am, she certainly does...48 years of marriage, got it one as a wedding present. I got one when I got married because I asked for hers...LOL. The gasket has been replaced a few times and only one safety valve had to be replaced. Thankfully, they make them with those now! No more ceiling art.

A shout out to my sister the person I assume posted about the ancestral pressure cooker - doubt it matters, but the thing is more like 60 years old and is terrifying - it makes a huge racket and as I recall that was when it was only about 25 years old.

By any chance, does Shahin have a way of barbequing scallops - either with or without bacon? What flavoring, if any, would be used?

   So, are you hooking up cameras in my backyard? I just made some scallops the other night. And, man, they were fabulous (he says modestly).

     Here is my flavoring strategy for grilled scallops: do what you want. Sometimes I want them marinated for about 20 minutes in olive oil and lemon. Other times, I want a dry rub, in which case I use ingredients I tend to like with scallops - salt, a little black pepper, maybe a little cayenne and, if I'm feeling Southwestern, some ancho powder or, if I'm more in a Chesapeake mood, some Old Bay. Whatever I have on hand, really.

     Grill over a direct medium-hot fire for about 3 minutes per side, depending on the size of the scallops. They should form a nice light crust. They'll come out between rare and medium-rare.

You can also have the crusts prebaked and the fillings cut up and the cheese grated the night before so you just have to mix up the custard and pour it over the fillings in the morning. Plus those overnight french toast dishes are great for a brunch, my fav is Gourmet cookbook's creme brulee french toast.

Good suggestions.

I have the Gourment cookbook, and I'm going to have to try that French toast recipe.

Hi All, Can quiche be made with egg whites? If so, do you have a recipe recommendation? Novice maker here. Thanks!

Yep, it can, but it's not going to be as fluffy/creamy as one with egg yolks; it will be firmer. I've seen some recipes that call for silken tofu to get back some of that creaminess, but I've never done it myself. Chatters, any of you gone down this road before?


Whom are you calling a brat? ;-)

cubed avocados, red onions, grape tomatoes and small fresh mozzarella balls wiht a light champagne vinigerette.

That sounds tasty. I've made avocado-based sides before for barbecue parties. My only issue with them is that the party then turns into a giant fat-fest, between the meats, the guac and the cheese. I like more balance.

I wanted to use the potato flesh in the zucchini skins and the zucchini flesh in the potato skins. Just switching them. My question was what to mix with the zucchini flesh before filling them in the potato skins.

Oh, gotcha. Sorry for not understanding the first time. But I think that Italian treatment I mentioned would still be nice. You can see a recipe for it in "La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy."

As I recall, a pressure cooker has a rubber ring on the inside of the lid. Check to see if it has gotten brittle. If so, replace before using.

Good advice, thanks.

Bone in or boneless pork butt turns out best. If I boneless does it need to be tied into a ball? I have two very young children and cannot spend the amount of time necessary to tend to a manual smoker. Is it possible to change a manual smoker into an electric one? If so, how?

    I prefer a bone-in pork butt, because I love to slide the bone out when it is perfectly cooked. (Although I hate the despair when an under-cooked butt doesn't yield its bone.)

     I have, though, smoked boneless butts too, and have cooked them both with and without string. Works better tied up, I've found. 

       As for changing a manual smoker (like a Weber charcoal kettle type of thing?) into an electric one, I have no clue. Must say, I have never even heard of it. But no doubt someone has done it. Maybe our chatters can help. 

This one is for Joe. Had any good tofu recently? Also, can you recommend any good books about Maine food?

Why, as a matter of fact I have! You must have seen my Tweets or such indicating I was tinkering w/tofu with the fabulous Andrea Nguyen, author of "Asian Tofu." And just last night, I made a black pepper tofu dish from the aforementioned "Plenty" at my friend Kathy Gunst's house -- she, as it happens, is the author of the really lovely "Notes from a Maine Kitchen." Do you know it?

Andrea's book is great.

I want to buy an ice-cream maker that will work for a family and last forever. It doesn't have to be pretty, just worth the cabinet space. Thanks!!

I think the standard-bearer for most folks is Cuisinart. That's what I have, and I love it. Tim and other folks I know are fans of the Kitchen-Aid ice cream attachment.

Other recommendations, ice cream lovers?

Hi! I am looking to buy a pizza stone. What should I look for - do you have any types or brands that you recommend? Thanks for your help!

You know, I've had my pizza stone so long -- 10 years and counting -- that I don't even remember what the brand is. The stone is so black now, I don't even think I could read the name even if I could find it.


But to your question: Best Manufacturers and Old Stone tend to rate well with home pizzamakers. You just want to make sure that whatever stone you buy, it has a lengthy warranty. Some stones may have flaws that cause them to crack. You want to easily return that for another, if necessary.


Chatters, what's your favorite stone?

I have a new schedule that allows me to cook dinner and bake much more regularly than I did in the past, which is lovely, but baking full batches of things can be dangerous for just 2 people (and I no longer can take things to the office!). Can you make some recommendations for baked goods (cookies, cakes, etc.) that can be easily scoped down to 2-4 servings? My and my husband's waistlines thank you! P.S. I'm trying the "greens" recipe ASAP. Yum!

Here's a great group of recipes from Bonnie's Book Report last year on "Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers."

Chocolate Lime Bread

You could also scale down cookies by baking a limited amount. Make a whole batch, freeze some of the log or individual mounds and throw a few into the oven when you want a treat.

Farm life must agree with him!

Thanks -- but some would say I was whey punny before the farm, too!


I'm growing mixed greens for salad on my back porch -- very exciting! But some of the leaves are very bitter. If I cook them -- use them where I would use spinach, say -- will they be less bitter, or should I just start making sweeter dressings or putting fruit on my salads?

If you substitute a bitter leaves for spinach, your dish will, unsurprisingly, turn out more bitter. This may not necessarily be a bad thing, depending on your dish. It's hard to say without more specifics.

Personally, I love the bitterness of, say, arugula when it's well balanced with a tart dressing and nuts and fruits.

I like a mix that offers bite and peppery notes. If you cook the bitter greens, remember you can add a splash a vinegar or agave or roasted garlic or sauteed sweet onion to ameliorate the bitterness.

I've been debating getting for one for about a year. Trying to remind myself today's pressure cookers aren't like our grandmothers. Does the book reviewed also discuss how to convert standard cooking times to pressure cooker times? I'm ***this close*** close to buying one but unsure as to how often I'd actually use one.

Both of them do include a chart that gives times for cooking specific vegetables, but that info's on the Web as well. I think a pressure cooker's good for warmer weather, as it cooks food faster and won't heat up the kitchen.  You can cook just about anything in it; and the bonus is that if you buy an 8-quart model you've got a big pot you can use for cooking stocks and soups, etc.

We're hosting a party for 100 people in a few weeks and are trying to decide whether to do a signature drink (thinking punch or sangria) or just stick with beer and wine. Any advice from both a cost and a level of effort perspective? The situation is somewhat complicated by the fact that it's a surprise party, so any drink would have to be made ahead of time off-site and then transported.

That's a lot of people, especially if you're going to make this off-site and transport it. If that's the case, my initial reaction would be to just spend the money on nice wine and beer. But why would it have to be made off site? Almost all punches call for sparkling wine or soda to be added, which you would want to do only minutes before serving. Could you make ahead the base, and then add the sparkling wine later? If so, there's the Light Guard Punch, where you can make the base ahead (fino sherry, Sauternes, brandy, pineapple) and then add the sparkling wine as you serve it. Same with the crowd-pleasing Hans Punch Up (pear brandy, honey syrup, bitters, with the sparling wine at serving). Even something like the Gin Punch, which you can mix ahead, needs to be refrigerated for 2 hours (no ice until serving). And I'm guessing a boozy Gin Punch isn't going to appeal to the average party of 100. Whatever you do, don't just throw a bunch of fruit in cheap red wine and call it sangria. A sangria should have some brandy and even a little curacao mixed in with the wine. Here's a slightly fancier sangria, a "Tuscan" Sangria that you can make ahead as long as don't dilute it with ice until it's time to serve it.

Growing broccoli raab/rapini for the first time. Protip: one plant per square foot. Have a lot and great to explore the many ways to use this bitter green. My favorite is Lydia's classic: Sausage (or pancetta), saute the raab with the sausage and garlic, pepper flakes. Finish off with pasta and cheese. Now, onto planning on a potential bumper crop of tomatillos.

I absolutely love rapini, especially rapini prepared the way you're making it -- with some heat and fatty sausage. Okay, I'm officially hungry.

I'm trying to use your Recipe Search to find a recipe for some nice mustard greens I just got from a local farmers market. Using the term without quotes brings up everything with mustard and everything with greens; using the term with quotes brings up zero. Do you really have no recipes at all using mustard greens?

Yes, that is an annoying quirk that we hope to fix at some point. Here are some ideas:

Jumbled Greens

Sauteed Greens With Ginger, Garlic and Soy Sauce

Hawaiian Ginger-Chicken Stew

Napa Cabbage Kimchi

We do have some, such as Burmese-Style Pickled Mustard Greens. It helps to drill into the Advanced Search function, then check the "vegetables" box. That'll limit the search, at least.


Is there a way to keep them crisp? I let them cool completely before I put them in a container or plastic baggie, but they get limp/soggy.

Do you have a dehydrator? Or do you oven bake? Some say the dehydrator makes the chips stay crispier, longer. But you might also make sure the chips are completely dry before storing. Or alternatively, just briefly rebake them if they turn soggy.

We had the most lovely homemade cherry brandy when visiting Croatia last year. We're now craving it again. Anyone know a good source back here in the U.S.? Or a recipe to try to make it ourselves?

The most famous cherry spirit from Croatia is maraschino, which is a liqueur, not a brandy. It's made from the maraska cherry, native to Dalmatia. If that's what you had, you can find Luxardo brand maraschino pretty widely here. The family began production in Croatia, but fled to northeast Italy during WWII. There is also the Croatian brand Maraska, which is harder to find, but you can find it online. If you had a true cherry brandy or eau di vie, the most likely one you'll find in the U.S. is a kirschwasser (or kirsch), though what we usually get is from countries like Germany, Switzerland, or Austria.

How do you decide which meats go with which sauce????

      You eat a lot. 

      Look, some folks enjoy a NC-style vinegar-pepper sauce with their smoked pork shoulder, others a KC-type tomato-based sauce, and still others a mustard-based sauce. Some like it hot. Some sweet. 

       And that is just pork shoulder and just a highly over-simiplified overview of the flavor profiles of sauces. Like, I think, most people, when I first started eating barbecue, I found I liked whatever sauce and tended to use it on every meat. As I tasted more sauces, I came to find that certain ones, for me, went better with certain meats. 

      For example, I love a scorchingly hot (though not as hot as it used to be) Dancing Pigs sauce with a good, coarsely-ground sausage. The two just mate well together to me. On thick pork chops, I tend toward a mustard sauce. On pulled pork, I like an eastern NC-style vinegar-pepper sauce, because it adds a lovely zing without overpowering the smoke-perfumed meat. With brisket, I generally go without sauce at all, although I always put some on the table and, occasionally, use it (generally a slightly spicy tomato-based sauce or a thin tomato-flecked "jus"). 

      My suggestion: make or buy six sauces. They last practically forever (well, months, anyway; truth is, I have some bottled sauces in my fridge I bought 2 years ago - and I still use 'em), which gives you ample time to mix and match.

OK, I am terrified of the pressure cooker. Story is that my two brothers decided one day while we were out to cook some spaghetti in the pressure cooker. When they heard the jingling they took the pot off the stove and pried the top off at which point it exploded with the top hitting the ceiling. What saved my brother's eyes was the fact that in reflex he closed his eyes when it exploded. Doctor said he had quick reflexes. Since then, not that I would cook spaghetti in it. I have dodged pressure cookers. I do cook a lot of beans but I will keep soaking and cooking in a pot on the stove.

I was terrified of pressure cookers, too (the same childhood memories most of us have, I reckon) until I started researching current-day pots. The one I recently bought has so many safety features, I don't think I could blow it up if I tried.

I love broccoli slaw with almonds, shallots and currants. It'll work with a potato salad while being a bit different from a usual slaw.

Nice idea. Thanks.

Calvert-Woodley in Van Ness has wines from all those places. I think Austria would be the hardest to find a good selection of, but on their site they show quite a few mostly white wine choices. I recently had them help me take a "tour" of Italian wines, which was a lot of fun. It turned me into a big fan of Sicilian Nero DiVola.

With great regret, I had to throw out the pressure cooker I inherited because it was hard to fit in the refrigerator at my new apartment so one night I left it on the back of the stove -- the same place I'd been storing it -- with some sort of meat stew in it and only remembered months later that there was stuff in there. I figured the no-longer-meat would probably emit toxic and possibly deadly fumes if the cooker were opened and even if not, I would never believe the pot was clean enough to use again. Sometimes I wonder if somebody else salvaged it.

You should not use a "vintage" pressure cooker that is more than - say - 10 years old. Many were poorly made and lacking important safety features (and may also be aluminum which is reactive - so no tomatoes, lemon or citrus juices!) Read the manual and try to determine it's age and see if has these safety features: - Primary and secondary over-pressure valve - they are redundant mechanisms to ensure there are no "explosions" - Locking top - will prevent the cook from accidentally opening the pressure cooker if it still has pressure. Then, even before testing it, make sure the gasket (circle of rubber or silicone that fits in the lid) is supple and un-damaged and that any of the rubber safety stoppers are equally in good condition. It's a very romantic notion to put your mother's pressure cooker to use, again. However, since she already had an "accident" I recommend you shop for a modern model (or more recent used cooker) with redundant safety mechanisms. Sorry!

That's great advice, from Laura Pazzaglia of Why take chances, when today's new pots are so safe?

I have a pressure cooker from India that is quite heavy. I saw them at Macys on sale once, but found them all to be quite light weight. From what I understand, the heavier the base, the better.

The weight depends, of course, on what the cooker is made of. Stainless steel pots, which I prefer, are usually heavier. (My stainless pot has an aluminum-core bottom, so it still has much of the heat-efficiency of aluminum.)

I've been using the beet greens left from my fresh beets. I quickly saute them, or mix them in with a garden salad.

Yep, definitely. In the book I cowrote with Boston chef Andy Husbands, "The Fearless Chef," we include a recipe for triple-beet salad: Baby beet greens, beets, and a dressing made with some of the cooked beets. Once you get past the Pepto Bismol color of the dressing, it rocks.

I tried using the flavors in a marinade for pork tenderloin kebabs and it flopped - not much flavor and I had to pick the annatto out by hand. Any suggestions how to adapt this recipe for a quick-cooking cut?

You mean my recipe? If you had to -- or if you even could -- pick the annatto out by hand, you didn't grind it up enough. I've never thought of this as not flavorful, given that it has so many powerful spices/herbs/aromatics in it, such as 3/4 cup garlic cloves and 3/4 cup cilantro, pimenton, allspice, ancho, etc. But indeed, it's designed for meat that's going to fall apart and release a lot of juices, making a sauce. For something quick cooking, check out these Annatto-Rubbed Pork Chops from Cookthink.

I know the basil questions will come in over the next few weeks, and I was hoping you could make a list for us of all the wonderful things to do with basil, aside from making pesto and freezing it. I'm ready to get creative this year. Thanks.

My dog loves it.

My mother also ignored the instructions that came with her 1950s pressure warning against making split pea soup in it. The really serious problem is that, thanks to the laws of gravity, split pea soup on the ceiling eventually becomes split pea soup on the floor, causing her to slip and fall and slide across the kitchen until she took a header into the hot water heater (ouch!). Another thing the booklet warned NOT to make in the pressure cooker: applesauce. Word.

Beer cocktails don't have to be highbrow either. You'd be surprised how much you can accomplish by mixing tequila, lime juice and a light beer.

Thanks for the knee-jerk populism. A Boilmaker, a shot of cheap whiskey dropped into a Budweiser, is even easier. So is the simplest mixology, the "beer back," as in whiskey with a beer back. Or the simple Michelada for something Mexican. But I reasonably assumed the earlier chatter was looking for something that called for a recipe. Sorry if that wasn't the case.

I'm amazed to read that anyone ever said a broth made in a pressure cooker was watery (because it hadn't reduced). The richest stocks I've ever made were in pressure cookers, where every molecule of taste stays inside. Now, the idea of being able to make cake in a pressure cooker is something I'll believe when I've done it!

The cake doesn't brown, but it was nice and moist -- kinda like a steamed pudding.

How do you use one? How do you prevent the dough from sticking?

My favorite method involves putting the stone under the broiler and preheating the stone at the highest your oven will go -- 500 degrees -- for at least 30 minutes, then switching to broil and sliding the pizza on with a peel. That's the Jim Lahey method -- I often do something similar with the pizza on the back of a cast-iron skillet (putting the dough on directly with my hands and topping it quickly, no peel required), but a stone is great, too. The pizza doesn't stick because the stone is so hot.

Kale chips seem to be the hot snack these days. Are they difficult to make and do you have a reliable recipe? Thanks for the help.

They're not overly difficult to make, but for the best results, you might want to buy a dehydrator. If you get one, you can then make this amazing recipe: Elizabeth Perry's Kale Chips, which may be the best I've ever tased.

I regretably used my pizza stone to cook some meatballs that were SUPER OILY and now the stone seems to be saturated. I've tried slowly burning it off in the oven, but it just smokes and smokes and is STILL oily. Any suggestions??

I don't have any immediate suggestions.


Chatters? Can you help?

I love my Williams-Sonoma square pizza stone. I think it has a lifetime guarantee.

Thanks for the rec. How much was that stone?

10-4 on that. One of my two stones is that exact one. It's a beauty.

You would call it ReWhey! LOL!

I have both a large-round webber kettle and a tower (tall/skinny) one. Appreciate ideas how to make it electric. Thanks


My family has always used a pressure cooker. My parents did and my wife's parents did as well. However, it was almost always used to (over) cook green beans southern style. We primarily use it to cook dried beans. To add flavor we usually add a ham bone and then save the last 30 minutes of cooking to remove the lid so that the broth can reduce in order to concentrate the flavor. I saw several interesting recipes in the Food section. My question is how tempermental are these recipes. With the beans I am used to cooking, it is hard to mess up as long as they are cooked long enough.

Sorry, not sure whether you're asking about bean recipes specifically or just any pressure cooker recipe. Can you clarify?

Enjoyed reading Shahin's blog about HOW people came up with BBQ recipes. Wish I could be along to taste each one - YUMMMMM!!!

      Thanks. But I think you're referring to my story on our sauce contest. My blog yesterday was on criticiaing a Food & Wine "Best BBQ" list.

I bought a small sample (2x airport size) of Absinth. Now what do I do with it? I don't want to do that complicated sugar drip thing, plus I don't like sweet drinks. help!

A small bottle is perfect. Use it as you would bitters, as an accent in drinks like the Sazerac, the Phoebe Snow, or the Fourth Degree. If you get an old pre-Prohibition cocktail guide, you'll find dozens of recipes that call for a dash or two of absinthe.

Joe, so I could use the flat side of a cast iron griddle (the one for making pancakes) as a pizza stone?? really? too cool!

Joe might be gone already, but he wrote a column about this technique.

I have two, my everyday one and my canning one! They are much safer today then decades ago.

The kale-cucumber salad looks delicious. Do you think swiss chard would work as well? I have a bumper crop in my garden (whereas the kale has been pokey) and have been looking for a new salad type recipe. Thanks!

Sure, try the Swiss chard -- and the massage technique. I'm a believer. Lovelovelove this dressing.

My fiance and I have expanded our roofdeck garden this summer from herbs and tomatoes to include a whole mess of peppers (jalapeno, cayenne, wax, bell). We tend to go through a decent quantity of bells and jalapenos on a regular basis, but I have a feeling we'll end up with a glut of peppers at some point this summer. Other than passing them off to the neighbors, any suggestions? I'm leaning towards figuring out how to pickle the jalapenos and dry the cayennes but I'm open to your thoughts. Thanks!

    When life gives you peppers, make pepper sauce. It can be as simple as chopping a bunch of peppers into some vinegar with salt and, wow, you have a great all-purpose sauce for everything from greens to pork shoulder. 

     You can also make a Jamaican jerk sauce. 

     And don't get me started on eggs. Mmmmmmm....

I just read an article online that says only stainless pressure cookers are safe. My old relic is aluminum. Shall I stop using it?

Maybe I'm behind on my scientific journals, but though I'm aware that there's a lot of concern about cooking with aluminum -- which much of the world does, by the way -- I am not sure that there has been any actual proof that it's bad. Maybe chatters can point me toward some? But in any case, if you're truly cooking with an "old relic," maybe it's time to buy a newer model just to be safe.

I love, love, LOVE my pressure cooker. It's one of those that come with a steam-release valve that has to be opened manually. One time years ago, I forgot to open the valve before opening the pot and I ended up with burns from boiling stock -- but the few white spots still remaining on the backs of my hands and my lower arms where the blisters once were just remind me of what a delicious dish I made that day, and to be mindful in the kitchen!

Would love a knew dinner idea for green beans. I've sauted them with garlic, onion, and tomato and served over pasta, I've stir-fried them with Asian sauce over rice, and I tried roasted them with tomatoes and a balsamic/soy sauce mixture that my mom told me about, but they seemed to pruny to me. Would love a new idea.

You might try these Tomato-Braised Green Beans and Potatoes. They were designed to use with frozen beans, but it works with fresh, too -- this is Southern-style long cooking. For another Asian idea, I seared some in the wok the other day and then added a little thinned-out Szechuan chili bean paste and a pinch of sugar. That was pretty nice. Spicy/sweet.

Hubby simply bought 4 unglazed red tiles at a tile store for $1 apiece years ago. Laid out 2x2 in the oven, they double perfectly for a pizza stone, and since they can be put in the oven (and later removed, once cooled) individually, they're not as heavy to deal with as a single pizza stone.

Very interesting. You may have just discovered a way around the expensive pizza stone industry.

What is the inexpensive good pressure cooker? It's ideal if it is under $100. Thank you!

Two of us here in the Food section own Fagor cookers, which aren't terribly expensive. A 6-quart is cheaper than an 8-quart, as you'd expect. Wait for a sale, and you won't pay over $100.

One of my favorite summer drinks is a combo of lemonade or limeade, vodka and a splash of light beer. So trashy, but so refreshing!

Whatever works, right?! Trashy is the new fancy!

now *that* sounds like a party!

Until you go home and feel like you just ate 20 water balloons.

Soak in hot water and vinegar and alternate scrubbing it with kosher salt and baking soda. I've never done meatballs (?) on mine but did have a wicked spill-over from a white pizza.

Thanks for the suggestion!

One caveat on that: After soaking, don't put the pizza stone back in the hot oven until it's absolutely bone-dry, or it could break.

Make sure the tiles are food-grade. If not, they can have all sorts of fun stuff in them - like lead.

I totally disagree that a wonderful appliance should be thrown out just because there are newer versions. My pressure cooker is about 20 years old and it works wonderfully. The one I had inherited before that -- and left the stew in :( (see earlier post) -- also lasted me for about 20 years before I ruined it through my own negligence, and my mother might have gotten it from her mother.

Normally I'd absolutely agree with you. But in this case it's not just that there are newer versions, it's that there are safer versions.

Mine was just under $50 last Christmas. It's big and square and can hold two big loaves at the same time.

Well, you've hit the de-pressure button and allowed the steam to escape so you know what that means....we're so done! Thanks to Joe, Jim and Jason for Joining us today.


Chat winners: The pressure cooker fan who was not altogether satisfied with what she found in the Food section wins one of the cookbooks Jane reviewed, and the chatter who asked so  nicely about finding mustard greens recipes in our database gets the "Wild About Greens" cookbook.


Remember to send your mailing address info to Becky at so we can get those books out to you. Hope your Memorial Day eats are fab. 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: Cooking for One columnist Joe Yonan and Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin.
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