Free Range on Food: Food clubs, Mark Bittman's "VB6" and more

May 29, 2013

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 Free Range! Hope you enjoyed Bonnie's profiles of food clubs today; I don't know about you, but I have officially added smoked mozz, lemon and basil to my repertoire of pizza toppings. Wow. If you have a club of your own, please tell us about it!

And I had a fun day cooking vegan food w/Mark Bittman, and included that account in my Weeknight Veg column this week.

Got questions about those, or anything else? We're here to help.

And we'll have giveaway books to tempt you: "VB6" by Bittman, of course; and "Mad Hungry Cravings" by Lucinda Scala Quinn.

Let's do this!


Hi Joe, thanks for the piece on Mark Bittman and VB6 today. Lucky you, shopping and cooking with Mark. I got up early to make soup before work, saw the article, and ended up making the carrot/asparagus stir fry for breakfast and it was delicious. FWIW, shiitakes are a good addition. I am not vegan nor even vegetarian but do strive to have veggies at every meal - keep the great veg-heavy stories coming!

Glad you liked it! That was fast!

We just got an ice cream maker and are eager to make our own. Do you have any recommendations for ice cream recipe books? David Lebovitz is on the list - any others? thanks!

Yes! "Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home" is a winner. It's my go-to, anyway. Unlike Lebovitz, Jeni's ice creams don't have egg yolks, so you'll benefit from having the two perspectives. Here, by the way, is the profile our former colleague Jane Black did on Jeni Britton Bauer a few years ago.

We also have a variety of ice cream recipes in our database, including Caramelized White Chocolate Ice Cream from Lebovitz

Caramelized White Chocolate Ice Cream

and Cherry Pit Ice Cream from Britton Bauer.

Cherry Pit Ice Cream

Where on wp website is recipe for lemon honey flavored chicken thighs. I have been searching wp website in vain for last 30minutes. Not impressed w website follow through . P e4 says go to wp recipes, but it is no where to be found. Hilary S

Hilary, sorry to frustrate you! It's here: Lemon- and Honey-Flavored Chicken. Worth the fuss, though. 

I think hyphens in the recipe name are to blame; the database site search is specific. 

I accidentally bought a half gallon of whole milk. What should I do with it to use it up? I'm thinking dessert, but I don't like eggy desserts like bread pudding and my husband does not like rice pudding. Ice cream? Gelato? I want to use all of it up. Savory dish ideas are welcome too as long as they are vegetarian. Thanks!

You could make ricotta (half our recipe/easy)! Or lots of crepes, which you could freeze.  You could make a few batches of bechamel and freeze them as well -- good to use as the base of gratins and in lasagnas. A nice potato or corn chowder. Or this chocolate budino

I've heard enough raving reviews from experienced cooks about the wonders of Thermapen to believe it's a good product, and I have certainly come to appreciate having a fast-responding, versatile and very accurate thermometer. But at almost $100, it seems pretty steep for an item I might use a couple times a month at best. Is there really no other decent option? Even for something between $50 to $75? (I disavow any knowledge of trying to stretch out my budget to also snag an ice cream maker. OK, fine, I'm totally trying to make birthday check from the in-laws stretch to get the two items, but I will accept your final ruling on the Thermapen.)

Scan past Free Range chats and you'll see that we are on the Thermapen bandwagon here. So I guess it depends on how long you think you'll keep it.  It is sturdy, self-contained/all-in-one-piece. Friend of mine just picked up an OXO Good Grips digital/instant-read thermometer for $20 that seemed to handle standard functions well. I see it's gotten 50/50 reviews on Crate and Barrel's site. Chatters, which ones do you like?

We are in the process of registering for our wedding and I would love for your feedback on food processors. I have a mini one that I use at least once a week for pesto, cauliflower pizza, and onions. Is there one you recommend or features you recommend looking for? Between this and a stand mixer, cooking is going to be a lot more fun!

I have had a Cuisinart model (11 cups?) for a few years now. Love it. The dough blade and dough settings have proven worthwhile for me. I don't know how many retailers sell it as part of the package, but the model Costo is carrying also has a case that holds the blades and discs. That's nice. Not a deal-breaker for sure, though I would love to have it since mine are not so safely stowed wrapped in paper!

Hi, I enjoy your chats and hoping you can help. I sent my husband to the store for creme fraiche and he came home with a jar of Lemon Creme Fraiche (by The Devon Creme Co). Any ideas of what I can make with it?

Roll it up in crepes with fresh strawberries! Or on biscuits. Or toast. Or use it to slather between layers of a sponge cake. Or just serve it with cookies and limoncello for dessert.

The next time you're not in a rush for it, you can make your own creme fraiche: couple tablespoons of full-fat yogurt or buttermilk in a couple of cups of heavy cream. Stir and let it sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. (Then refrigerate it.)

So, I'm all about Bittman and I love the VB6 idea in theory. Maybe I could stop eating yogurt for breakfast, even. But: here's the problem. I always bring dinner leftovers for lunch! How do I alter what I'm doing such that I don't have to go out for lunch every day (or buy extra groceries to make sandwiches and then end up throwing away leftovers)...but still make this work? Any ideas for me?

The point of VB6, from what Bittman says, is to eat less meat and animal products, but to do it in a way that's easy for you. So, maybe you do a vegan dinner every other night, and take those leftovers to work for lunch the next day, and then that night you make something with meat/dairy, and bring that for lunch the next day, etc. Or you go vegan on the weekends -- or on Tuesdays, Wednesday, and Thursdays. Get the idea?

could you please recommend some favorites of yours? Thank you. Maria

A few years ago, a Post reporter did much of the work for us all and tasted around Philly for pork sandwiches. Among the places he hit, I would agree with DiNic's in the Reading Terminal Market. Fabulous roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and aged provolone. Mmm, I want one now.

Submitting early because of a work commitment ... I'm having some friends over next weekend and would love to serve bobotie, of which I'm immoderately fond. Two questions, though: one guest is gluten-sensitive; how much would it suffer if I left out the bread-and-milk? And can it be doubled without harm? Thanks so much.

I think the curried meat mixture needs the panade action  (bread-milk mixture). I think you could use a good gluten-free bread, or maybe even make your own GF cornbread and use that. Doubled recipe: sure. Adjust cooking times....

Thank you for this! As longtime fans of Bittman (and friends of Dr. Sid) I am pleased that my husband is now motivated to try this approach to weight loss and more aware eating. But I am not an intuitive cook and need help with menu planning and recipes. (and I have to be careful not to lose weight in the process) Where do you recommend I look for ideas? (other than Joe's recipes)

Well, Bittman does include a very helpful chapter on building-block recipes that you might appreciate. Things like Daily Salad Bowl, Daily Cooked Vegetables, Big Batch Rice and Grains, Big-Batch Beans, etc. (I actually have a chapter of these things in my next book, too -- along with recipes that use each one for quick weeknight meals.)

What are your thoughts on meat substitutes such as "Beyond Meat"

I tried an early version of it last summer, and when it was cold, the texture was eerily similar to white meat chicken breast. When heated, it got a little mushy. Generally, I have very mixed feelings about mock meats. Personally, I don't crave them, and don't want/need something that reminds me of meat. And many of them are so highly processed, and I avoid that kind of food. But some people want training-wheels products to help them move past meat, and I get that. I'm just not one of them.

For the second year in a row, my potted herbs don't seem to be doing well. I have tried and tried again to grow Basil in a medium-sized pot, but it doesn't seem to take. This year, my Thyme and Mint are doing better than before, and I was curious if there are any other forgiving herbs I could substitute for basil. I love using them to cook, so something that is versatile in the kitchen would be best, any ideas?

Sorry about your basil! That's one of the things in my container garden I have always been able to rely on. I just planted some oregano and sage this past weekend, so too early to report on that. I have a potted rosemary I planted last year that made it through the winter and is continuing to go strong. I'd say that's a pretty good contender for being indestructible.

Try anise hyssop! Tastes a tad like licorice, produces pretty pale purple flowers. You can use it in salads, to infuse teas and simple syrups, in a marinade for grilled veg or lamb, and in egg salad. I can attest to this. Or make this refreshing summer hors d'oeuvre.  

I lovelovelove my Cuisinart, even if I blush to think how much my s/o spent on it for my pleasure. Seconds to complete vegetable pulverization! Perfectly smooth hummus in five minutes flat!

For real. The baba ghanoush I made this weekend was worth the price of my processor.

I bought a jar of smoked paprika at Trader Joe's--love their spices and prices!--bc I needed a tsp for a recipe. It smells divine, but I haven't cooked with it previously so I'm not sure where to include it. What are your favorite uses for this tempting item?

Oh, man. What DON'T I put it on? That'd be a shorter list, possibly. I love it sprinkled on roasted vegetables, stirred into mayo for a great little sauce, on popcorn, on fried or roasted chickpeas or Marcona almonds, in Spanish tortilla, on anything I'm trying to make smoky without using a grill. Jim Shahin wrote a great column about using such ingredients. If you eat poultry, how bout Pimenton-Rubbed Roast Chicken?

Can you explain why you chose before 6 as your cut off? As I get a bit older (40s) I find that I am much more likely to be vegan or at least vegetarian after 6, not before. Week day breakfasts are almost always cereal and fruit with milk. It is just easier that way. Yes, I could use a vegan milk substitute, but I don't really see the point. And for lunch I'm usually packing carrots, an apple and a sandwich. Could I figure out a vegan sandwich? Yeah, I guess so. But it is going to be harder. Now, for dinner? Then it is much easier to be vegan or vegetarian, especially since I am getting home fairly late, so reheating something made over the weekend is preferred. Vegetable fist dishes are great for this. I have ratatouille and spicey cauliflower in the fridge now, but last night I was really lazy (and got home after 9:30 PM) so I just heated up some sauted mushrooms that were already there and had some marinated cukes on the side. Anyway, I am curious as to your thought process on making the most rushed meals vegan, not the one at the end of the day.

Bittman chose 6 because he found dinner the meal most tempting in terms of eating meats, dairy products, alcohol, desserts, etc. So his idea is that you stay strict during the day and let loose (well, not really -- you still try to stay reasonable) at night. But again, he admits that the 6 p.m. marker is somewhat arbitrary, just in service of the idea that you eat much less meat/dairy in a way that's easy to remember and deal with.

I'm charged with bringing an appetizer to a small cookout, but I'm blanking on ideas other than dips. They're all adventurous eaters with no food restrictions, but I'd like to not have to buy too many specialty ingredients. It's also got to maintain its integrity for a short car ride and a couple of hours after. What do you think?

In truth, I have slipped in a few suggestions that do call for a couple of "specialty ingredients." But that's only because they are worthy of your consideration. 

Cheesy Spinach Balls

Grilled Spiced Olives

Lemon-Rosemary Pickled Green Beans

Roasted Tomato Bruschetta

Guacamole Eggs

Fig and Fennel Caponata

Ahead of my Monday birthday, I'm seeking fast-casual counter service places that give birthday treats. Not free dessert at a table-service dinner, but places such as Good Stuff, which gives a free birthday milkshake.

Well, I know Krispy Kreme gives away a free drink and doughnut on your birthday, but you have to register online first. Then again, you might recall what the judges said about Krispy Kreme during our ongoing Doughnut Wars!


...go online, get drink and free doughnut (soda and coffee)

Please let the Web people know that when I click on a recipe in a slideshow, it would be nice to have the recipe open in a separate window. Right now clicking takes you to the recipe, and when clicking back to return to the slideshow the 20-ish-second commercial starts over again every.single.time. I've now ben conditioned to look through all the photos and then I go back to choose one or at the most two to click on to get the recipe.

Thanks for mentioning this. We'll try to have the people who build those change how the links work.

John's Roast Pork Shack (Yes, it's a shack and an institution). It's a pretty far walk from Center City, so I'd take a cab. 14 E. SNYDER AVENUE, MON - FRI 6:45 AM - 3:00 PM, Saturdays 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Yes, it gets a lot of love from Philadelphians.

I second Jeni's as a must have ice cream book! I lived in Columbus for four years and fell in love. When I moved away I seriously considered getting pints shipped to me until she came out with her cookbook. The recipes really do mimic what she sells in her shops...amazing!

What a treat to read a story featuring the efforts of two of my favorite newspaper food writers! Seriously, I thought it was a great story and, although I'm not vegan, I would make either dish featured today, as they both sound delicious. I'm actually eating a lot less meat these days and often use it more as an accent, like a few crumbles of bacon to give a little smoky flavor to a soup (this is actually along the lines of Mark's story for the Times today, which I also enjoyed). I'm interested in his vegan book and particular whether he's found many worthwhile vegan desserts. From what I've seen, really great vegan desserts can be a challenge, since butter, cream and eggs are so essential to many sweet concoctions. I'd love to attempt a vegan chocolate mousse, for example, but haven't found the right recipe yet. Any suggestions?

"VB6" includes no out-and-out desserts. Bittman writes, "I don't like fake desserts and I don't do them, and you probably have plenty of recipes for real ones already. My only suggestion is that you choose good-quality, preferably homemade, sweet treats -- or a piece of dark chocolate or caramel -- over a bag of supermarket cookies." That said, he does include a few tings in his Treats chapter that might qualify: vegan "creamsicles" that use silken tofu, OJ, sugar, and vanilla; chocolaty pineapple kebabs that are merely pineapple and cocoa powder; and frozen banana bonbons that are just bananas dipped in chocolate and frozen.

which I've wanted for about 4 years. What are a couple of great recipes to start with. Bonus for things that will be coming into season in June and July.

Shrimp in Pumpkin Seed Sauce. dingdingding


Can you think of any uses for the salmon-y water in a can of (pink) salmon? I'm assuming it's full of nutrients. There's not enough to boil pasta or rice in. And it doesn't seem to work as, or in, salad dressing, even for salmon salad. The salmon itself makes a quick summer meal, no cooking required, so I stocked up at a recent sale. Thanks!

Stumper! We asked FOF (Friend of Food) nutritionist Robyn Webb about this. "Getting a big boost in nutrients is not going to happen from the liquid," she says.  Furthermore, draining that liquid could reduce the amount of sodium you'll take in per be on the safe side, she reminds you to look for BPA-free cans and choose wild salmon that's packed with the skin and bones (which does augment the calcium content). 

Joe, Why, oh why, did I just see your recipe for roasted vegetable and farro salad three weeks ago in a Free Range chat? It's delicious! The only problem is that with the coming heat, I won't be turning my oven on anytime soon. Thanks for the great recipe.

Glad you like it! Here's a thought: If you have a grill, you could certainly use that for the veg here...

No doubt the Thermapen is expensive, but we've had ours for ten years and it's still working great...and still on the original battery.

Picked up this kitchen gadget at a yard sale. It makes matchsticks, sort-of, from food -- Nothing very long. Then you can turn the matchsticks sideways and get an even mince. It doesn't work with tomatoes (squoosh!) and is so-so with onions, so won't really speed up my pico de gallo prep. Besides making tiny cheese cubes like the kind offered as samples at stores if you can manage to spear one with a toothpick, and maybe French fries, do you have any suggested uses? Thanks.

I've never used the Alligator, but it seems (at least the one you have) like the perfect piece of equipment to make julienned carrots and daikon radishes, which you could then quick pickle and use on sandwiches like a banh mi. Or on salads as a garnish. Sounds like you could even then dice the carrots to use in a soup. (God, I hate all the dicing involved in making carrot soup, but I love the results.)

For the person with the VB6 question: Make some things for dinner in which meat, poultry, cheese, etc., are add-in ingredients. Make a base of seasoned pasta or rice or quinoa or vegetables without them and set it aside for a lunch or two, and add what you want to the dinner portions. I'm thinking of something people do when cooking for picky eaters. The Dinner: A Love Story blog, for instance, talks about mixing and matching from a base ingredient.


I have a similar philosophy as Bittman (vegetarian at home). What I do is cook vegetarian meals (mostly) when I am at home and then use them for leftovers. Then when I got out, I eat what I want. You can also make a big crockpot a vegan black beans and they freeze really well. I bring them for lunch with corn tortillas when I don't have leftovers.

A few years back I was vegan for over a year and a half, but reverted back to my omnivore ways because, lets be honest, I LOVE cheese and bacon. However, I have always felt a teensy bit guilty about it, especially when friends I haven't seen in a while say "wait, I thought you were vegan!" I think VB6 would be a great place to transition myself back into the vegan mindset! Any tips for easy, packable, vegan lunches? My breakfasts are already vegan (yay!) but lunch is a bit of a struggle. Thanks!

Maybe it's because a previous chatter just mentioned it, but I love a grain salad. So easy to pack for lunch, and so easy to make (or keep) vegan.

Loved the article with Mark Bittman. I'm vegan and use his recipe for gnocchi, which doesn't include eggs. I should make some this weekend with some ramp pesto I put in the freezer (got to preserve it while the bounty is here!) and an arugula salad -- my favorite salad greeen as well and we don't mix it with other greens either. The food section is the only section of the paper that I read cover to cover every week -- even the articles about meat. ;-) Thanks for the inspiration.

Hi- Love the ideas of Bittman from your article. I am already a vegetarian (pescetarian to be exact) and eat a decent amount of fresh fruits and vegetables but am looking to get even healthier. What are the most important foods or "types of food" to cut out in the processed food department? I've had trouble sticking to things in the past- as he mentions counting calories can get tiresome, so I'm looking for some easy tricks to follow. thanks!

Bittman's list of foods he suggests you limit:

Fast food.

Protein/granola or so-called diet bars.

Frozen meals.


Packaged salty snacks.

Soda or sweetened beverages.

Packaged desserts.

Sugary cereal.

Any ideas for what to do with pearl sugar other than making Lieges Waffles? I recently came into a giant bag of the sugar, and am looking for interesting ways to use it in addition to waffles.

Hope other chatters will chime in. It'd be good on top of pies, cookies, sweet-ish breads and pastries. I might work it into a sweet/salty mixture of spiced nuts or sprinkle it over soft baked pretzels. Fun fact: Sometimes referred to as hail sugar! Can see why....

On why basil isn't doing well...I'm wondering if it was set outside too early. Basil doesn't like temps below 50-55 and at least this year we had those chilly nights last weekend. "Doesn't like" translates into stunted growth for rest of growing season (same can apply to tomatoes and other nightshade plants such as eggplants). Rule of thumb is to wait until May 15th or later to set these plants outside (and usually a good idea to harden gradually by setting out during day and taking in at night), though this rule didn't hold this year--date was later. Hope this helps!

Yep, I'll second this. I planted some basil too early myself, and it suffered.

Couple thoughts: be careful not to overwhelm the basil by transplanting it to too large a pot too soon. If you buy it in a 4-inch pot, for instance, leave it there until the roots start to peek from the bottom, then move it up to a 6-inch pot (8 inch at the most). If you want to use a larger pot for decorative reasons, try this: fill the larger pot with potting soil, then nestle two or three smaller pots in it. Cover the rims with potting soil. The trick is not to put the plant into a pot so large that it is drowning in wet soil every time you water. Overwatering is the most common cause of container plant failure. Also remember that basil (like tomatoes) dislikes cool night temperatures, so if you are in an area where the night temps are in the 50s, consider bringing it in at night until it gets warmer. Also be sure you are not over- or under-feeding. If you use a quality potting mix that has a slow-release fertilizer, you should be fine. Otherwise, try a slow-release, balanced fertilizer at the time of planting (a common brand is Osmocote, but that's not an endorsement). Balanced means the numbers of the three nutrients are the same (e.g., 10-10-10 or 14-14-14). FOLLOW the directions for volume/use. IN the end -- contact your local university extension office for the horticulture team. I am a master gardener, and MGs are available to help through extension offices around the country. We are volunteers, and we want to help.

This is fantastic advice. Thanks so much.

Becky, please share your recipe. I love this stuff but mine never tastes anything like the restaurant versions.

I should have known someone would ask! It's from the "Gourmet Today" cookbook I have at home. E-mail me ( or come back next week and I'll get you the recipe.

I didn't like what I found in the supermarket, and was making blintzes, and so - well, I just made it myself. It was SUPER easy!!!! And SO amazingly good. I can't even tell you how good it was. The issue is, though, that it calls for whole milk and cream. ---I've never seen it in the store with no fat, so I presume I would need *some* fat. Is it easy to sub 2% milk for the whole milk, and whole milk for the cream? would that work? Can I even put a little skim in there? (now, I need to start making yogurt again).

Whole milk, by definition, is milk with all its butterfat content (usually about 3.25 percent). You can make cheese with 2 percent milk, but most cheesemakers don't recommend it. You need the butterfat for the proper creamy texture. I  use creamline whole milk (the non-homogenized milk) for my fresh cheeses.

When my Thermapen broke, I bought a Taylor that has both a probe and a scan function. Not cheap, but less than the Thermapen and very fast.

Make sure you've got a sunny location for growing indoors.

I for some reason agreed to host 6 other families at my house in a few weeks for dinner (I suppose I should feel on-trend! a dinner club!) and am now in a panic. I said I would do "summer foods" but I don't know what that means. Can you just serve a bunch of salads? I have a few vegetarians coming so then I thought, I could do Indian vegetarian foods. Would that work? Maybe something on the grill? I am kind of stumped. It's a lot of people! I need inspiration! And then I will pause to feel cool that I have a dinner club.

No need to panic. As long as the bugs are kept at bay, people are naturally disposed to feeling happy and relaxed at a summer foods gathering, don't you think?


Bunch of salads has great possibilities. Kebabs come to mind; they are customizable and grill-friendly. You could make some ahead and let folks thread their own. Maybe start with a couple of blenders set up so people can do alcoholic/nonalcoholic icy things. Ice up some cooked shrimp. Make this quick-as-bob's-your-uncle catalan tomato bread on the grill -- nobody ever gets their fill of it. Pizza on the grill's quite doable, too;  search for toppings ideas here. (I'm still jonesing from hanging with the DC Elite Pizza guys.)

Like, is the concept of VB6 what I already know about it (vegan much of the day, healthy, less meat, etc. Try to have a rule, long-term life plan, etc.) or do I need the book to fully appreciate the situation and/or b/c it has such useful recipes?

 I don't know what you know, or what you're trying to accomplish, but sounds like you have a good handle on things. Are you wanting motivation to make a change? If not, you probably are fine without it!

Hats off to Mark for promoting interesting and good vegan food! I was vegan for a long period of time, and still eat mostly vegan, with the inclusion of fish, and I feel like people have a difficult time of being creative with vegan food. A lot of site and books rely heavily on grains or making something taste like other things (cashews --> cheese). While I can appreciate both of those things, I think vegan food should focus on natural food, and not carbo loading!


Oh, how I love it! But it needs a special salad dressing that I haven't yet discovered. Can you help?

I disagree -- good old oil and vinegar or lemon juice and some salt will do the trick, when the arugula is good and fresh and peppery. But you can certainly make a vinaigrette with a garlic clove, teaspoon of Dijon mustard, teaspoon of honey, and 1/4 cup each of olive oil and red wine vinegar. (Yes, my vinaigrettes are 1/1 ratio of oil to vinegar, not the classic 3/1.)

Fish stock.

I respectfully disagree.

I second Joe's position. Just to give you a glimpse of what could be in the canned salmon juice, read this FAQ.

Pour it over the cat's food!

Now THAT I can get behind. Have done it myself.

The one thing that struck me in the three recipes in the Bittman article, unless I missed it, there seemed to be no protein. I definitely do not think one needs protein in every dish or even at every meal, but that does seem to be a major thing that people would be looking for, especially in a transition to a more vegan diet (I throw beans on everything, but that's just me!)

I know what you mean. I'm vegetarian, so I am always making sure I include protein in the form of cheese, nuts, certain grains, in every dish. But if you're vegan during the day and eating everything at night, it's not so important.

I'm so excited! Kale and lettuce and arugula and garlic. We got radishes. A lot of them. What to do with them except throw them in a salad? The kids pick them out that way.


Pickle them!


Here's a great recipe for Asian Pickled Carrots and Radishes, which you can use on roast pork, in tacos and even on salads.

Hey guys, What is your opinion on dual function charcoal/gas grills? We want the ease of gas (occasionally) even though we prefer charcoal for the most part. Any brands to choose/avoid? Thanks!!

    Good question. Seems others are wondering, too. The question has been, if not exactly trending, then, what, fadding(?) on my radar recently.

    I have not taken one for a test drive, but I can give you my impressions based on readings and conversations with bbq hounds. 

      They are pretty new and, like anything new, probably need to work out a few kinks. Like any grill, you'll get what you pay for. I was at a major chain outdoors store recently and checked out a cheap (about $350) combo grill that had a couple of nice features (adjustable shelves, for example) but was flimsy and did not have a firebox for true smoking. 

     On the other hand, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, which makes some of the best grills around, makes what is by all accounts a truly great hybrid. 'Course you are going to pay for it, to the tune of around $13,500. Still interested? Check out the K750HB Hybrid Fire Built-in Grill at

     I intend to visit the Kalamazoo factory next week and may be able to tell you a little more about it after that. 

      Back down to earth, there's the Coyote hybrid (also well made) for a measly $3,000.

       Brinkmann and Char-Broil have manufactured hybrids, as well, but their gas burners are underpowered and their construction is less than great. 

       Until we know more, me, I'd go with one gas grill and one charcoal/wood.


I used to be the same way, but some things that helped were: getting a subscription to Bon Appetit/Food & Wine, whatever suits your fancy, and scouring food blogs. I find that it helps reading posts from a cook or baker on the steps of making the food, how they thought of it, substitutions, etc.

I would love to have a "treat" kept in the freezer this summer for when I want sweets, but unfortunately dairy kills my stomach. Maybe a good recipe for sorbet? I can't think of anything other than frozen grapes, which are still good. :)

We have a good number of sorbet recipes in our database (although at least one, oddly, has dairy, so watch out).

I also really liked this Strawberry-Rhubarb Sherbet I tested a few weeks ago.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Sherbet

I recently came across a recipe for Cherry Clafouti that called for "unpitted cherries," which seemed odd to me, because why would anyone want to eat a dessert containing the pits? It finally occurred to me that night that by "unpitted" the recipe writer meant what we'd call "pitted" -- i.e., removing the pits first. Maybe a less ambiguous term would be "de-pitted"? This would be linguistically sort of like an "unboned" piece of meat, too, I'd guess.

Nope, when they say unpitted, they mean not pitted. That's traditional in clafouti the French way. I'm not disagreeing with you about the lack of appeal in eating it this way, though.

I have the same jar! The things I use it most on/in are to make sweet and spicy mixed nuts and in quesadillas.

Hello, back in the husband was stationed in South Korea and I was allowed to go over and visit. One dish that I haven't been able to duplicate is the Chap Chae/Jap Chae or the Glass Noodle dish. I have finally found the sweet potato starch noodles...but I am stuck with the rest of the dish. Help please!

Here's our recipe for Stir-Fried Glass Noodles With Beef and Spinach, a.k.a. chap chae.

Stir-Fried Glass Noodles With Beef and Spinach

And if you want more ways to use up those noodles, try Green Glass Noodles.

Green Glass Noodles

I generally try to limit my meat and dairy, but breakfast is the hardest meal for me to do that with. Aside from days when I have oatmeal, there's always some sort of dairy component. I'm unwilling to go to soy or some other dairy replacement - if I'm going to eat it, I want it to be the real thing. What are Bittman's basics for breakfast?

He's got recipes for homemade cold cereal, fruit smoothie, banana parfaits, fruity nut butter, hot oatmeal, spiced apple jam (for toast), broiled nutty apples, tropical toast, reakfast pilaf, corny hoecakes, and more.

I am SO JEALOUS of the DC Elite Pizza Club. I make pizza all the time and people say it's pretty good but I live in an apartment and don't have a way to make wood fired pizza. Can I still join the club??

Word. This is the second consecutive summer I'll be whispering certain somethings in my husband's ear (backyard piZZA OVEN! NOW!) You can join, sort of. There were a few folks at the "meeting" (read: eating fest) who didn't have ovens; they were invited to check out how things work. There's no pressure that I could sense, or oneupmanship. Contact Dave Konstantin:  

Do you feel using vegan cheese would be contrary to the spirit of VB6, if not the letter? ("because it's well before 6, we won't be crumbling any feta into that mash.")

To continue to channel Bittman, yeah, I do. I'm confident he would say just eat real cheese in smaller amounts during the non-vegan portion of your day!

Give bread pudding another shot! I've made many a convert out of my "famous" caramelized pear and white chocolate bread pudding with whiskey sauce. You just gotta find a recipe and flavor combo that suits you, and invite people over because it is rich!

Yowza. I have a feeling a chatter or two may request this recipe.

Cream of (your choice of vegetable) Soup?

Great topic today! My coworkers and I have started a lunch food club. There is a group of four of us that love to cook and like the stay healthy. Twice a week, one person cooks/preps a big batch of lunch, enough to share, and then we rotate. It's a great way to try other food, easier on the wallet, and it means you're not stuck eating the same thing four days in a row.

Get out w/your bad selves! 

You can grill ahead of time or finish it there take some diver scallops even better if you can get Wegman's fresh still shell scallops and grill. I wrap the schucked scallops in proscuitto and grill and brushing with a little olive oil. Now 60 to 90 secs a side dpeending on how hot the grill. In shell I julienne the proscuitto and sprinkle on the scallop still in the shell. A little fresh black pepper and you are good to go. I drizzle the scallop on the half shell with a little good olvie oil at it comes off the grill after approx 2 minutes. You do not want to overcook.

I get around this by right clicking and opening a new tab with the recipe. But I agree, it's annoying.

Can you make ice cream with the lactose free milk (not soy, coconut or such)? I know cheese making with lactose free milk has issues. Is it the same for lactose free milk...most recipes call for heavy cream, which isn't lactose free.

I see that people tend to use soy creamer or coconut milk instead of the heavy cream. Check out this thread from

Do you know you can right click and open in new window or tab, or I can click the wheel on my mouse and my browser will open in a new tab

That works too. There's also a way we can program the links to open in a new tab automatically, which appears to be the case on some but not all the galleries.

Marcia Clarke in the NY Times did a chocolate mousse video just before Valentine's Day that was just chocolate and, if I remember right, water. Counterintuitive but it looked yummy.

We were way ahead of her. Check out this Chocolate "Chantilly" from Andreas Viestad a few years ago. There's optional whipped cream on top, but the substance of the mousse is, yes, just water and chocolate.

Melissa Clark.

I'm going to try and make homemade pasta; never done so before. Every recipe I've read and every program I've watched has unbeaten eggs added to the well of flower and then mixed. Can the eggs be beaten in a bowl and then added? Seem a little more efficient. What Gives? Thanks!!!

Domenica Marchetti, author of "The Glorious Pasta of Italy" and amateur photographer who posts the most drool-worthy photos on Instagram, writes in:


Yes, absolutely you can beat the eggs first and then add them to the well. My guess is that breaking the eggs directly into the flour means one less bowl to wash. Once you become familiar with making pasta you'll see that breaking them right into the well is no big deal. Just poke the yolks with your fork and lightly whisk until the eggs are mixed. Then continue whisking gently, incorporating flour as you go.

Is there any chance that that could be in U.S. food?

It's highly unlikely. The United States doesn't import beef from European countries involved in the horse-meat scandal and the U.S. doesn't allow horses to be slaughtered for human consumption. Here's an FAQ on the matter.

You could, you know, *drink* it.

Ha! Why, yes you could!

Now that I'm thinking of it, you could also make a bechamel -- something I've been doing as a pizza base after reading Jim Lahey's take on that in his "My Pizza." I crumble up some dried mushrooms in it, and use it as the base of a mushroom pie. Pretty great.

I follow your events from out of town. It would be so nice to be able to click on a link and see things that are coming up a little farther out. Is that possible already from the website?

Yes, we include a blurb at the end of the calendar directing folks to more food events, but here's the link for you.

I have toast with peanut butter every morning with the not-so-occasional sprinkle of raisins. I think that as long as your bread is vegan, you ought to be good to go! Regular toast doesn't always hold me all morning, but I have no problems with this arrangement.

This is a major decorative component of Swedish baked goods--sprinkle on top before baking cinnamon buns (no frosting on the truly Swedish ones), coffee breads/cakes, muffins. Anywhere you want a bit of pretty but not a mess of goopy icing.

When herbs flower in spring, it is a great opportunity to add color and unique seasonal flavor to a dish. Sage blossoms and thin sliced new potatoes or oregano flowers and smoked chiles on a pizza, yellow arugula flowers in a salad, minced garlic scapes in potato salad or cole slaw...

Great idea! When I was in Vancouver Island in the fall, we did a garden tour at the inn where we were staying and got to try a bunch of little flowers. They were a revelation. I'll have to experiment with mine.

Any reason I couldn't double the cake recipe and bake in a 13x9 pan? And the chatter with the lemon creme fraiche could use it on this cake, with or without the minced herbs added.

It ought to work;  the 13 x 9 holds a few more cups than you would need by doubling (6 cups in an 8 x 8; 14 cups in a 13 x 9) so perhaps your doubled cake would be a bit flatter. I'd check baking time 10 mins before the orig recipe said it'd be done. Two snaps up on the creme fraiche idea. 

Do you know what's up with the Ask Tom chat? It cuts off after the 12th question even after I close all my browsers, reboot, refresh, etc. The number of questions at the top kept changing but the scroll bar didn't go past that 12th question. Thansks!

We don't know, because there are separate folks who produce that. What browser were you using?

Make some fish tacos and slice them really thin for extra crunch!

Wash, de-stem, then grate them as you would carrots (I use a food processor when I have loads of them). Mound atop a lettuce leaf, dress with Blue Cheese or Roquefort or Gorgonzola salad dressing, top with a few turns of freshly cracked black pepper. Yummm!

Lemon Ice!!! (Other fruit ices, too, but lemon is SO-O-O-O refreshing on a hot sticky day).

Any plans to have a digital version of this cookbook or perhaps an cookbook app?

An app would be so great; nothing in the works right now. Here's a link for the ebook. 

I live in the Southwest so summer is well underway, which means I've already hit six weeks of weekly zucchini pick ups from my CSA, and have several more months of this ahead of me. I love trying new, creative summer squash recipes and would love to hear what your favorite zucchini dish is. Thanks!

I would suggest this All-American Spice Rub Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille from the guys over at Pork Barrel BBQ. A great summer recipe. It can be eaten as a side or as a main with pasta.

If you can wait until next week, we'll have a nice zucchini/grean bean salad recipe (uses a fantastic tahini dressing).

My breakfast of choice the past week has been homemade granola (oats, cashews, shredded young coconut, mixed raisins, almonds, dark brown sugar and honey mixed and toasted in a 250F oven with a bit of grapeseed oil) over fresh sliced strawberries. Delicious and hearty!

Fair enough on not using it. But taste aside, why would you feel okay eating the product but not ingesting the liquid it is packed in? If something's leaching, it's leaching into everything.

It's one thing to feel okay about eating a canned product (as in: it won't kill you) and another thing to recommend that you spread that flavor to other dishes and foods you might want to prepare.

One of my late father's favorite breakfast treats was toast slathered with Trader Joe's almond butter and my homemade black raspberry jelly. He loved it, and he wasn't even trying to be vegetarian!

One thing I really like about Mark Bittman's cookbooks is the extensive discussion of alternatives. Start with one recipe, and then add notes on different spices to use for different types of cuisine. Does VB6 do this? Since all of the bookstores near my office closed, it takes me much longer to get around to browsing through books...

He does offer options/substitutions in a lot of the recipes, but nothing like those grid-type approaches that I think you're talking about.

I just bought a spiral slicer and use it to make zucchini "noodles." Then prepare in the same fashion you'd use spaghetti, linguine, etc. Delicious!

I've been making a lot of Indian vegetarian food lately and highly recommend Manjula's Kitchen for simple recipes and easy to follow videos. Turns out my kids DO like spinach, when it is in the form of palak paneer.

I've been put off from making my own pasta at home because I don't have a pasta roller. Obviously, people made pasta before these things existed, but do the Rangers have any tips for making excellent pasta at home without the gadgets?

I guess you could roll it out (repeatedly) with a rolling pin. But that would require a lot of arm work and a lot of time. Pasta rollers are not that expensive (I believe mine ran about $30 and I've had it for years). Besides, they're a lot of fun to play with.

Any ideas for a cookie (or other dessert) that has a summer-type feel but does not include dairy or fruit? Need to bring it to a dinner to serve four. Alternative is something that can have a topping of the diner's choice, where dairy or fruit are among options but not the only option. Thanks!

Too hard to decide between these, so I suggest making them both. 

Oaxacan Chocolate Cookies.

Salted Oatmeal Cookies

I had a stale loaf of olive bread from Trader Joes. I soaked it in milk and eggs added mushrooms, leeks and cheese and had a great meal last night. However it made a LOT more than I anticipated. Can I freeze it? How? How would I reheat it?

Freeze away, preferably in a disposable aluminum pan. Reheat tightly covered with alum foil, in a water bath / (hot water halfway up the sides of the pan) 350-degree oven till heated through. 

I'm using Internet Explorer. Thanks!

Ah, OK. Yes, sometimes copying and pasting text can mess up the code and cause problems for IE users. The producer has tried reformatting the question and we're hoping it will upload correctly soon. In the meantime, if you have access to another browser, it should work there.

You can always make pickle relish with it. I just use my regular recipe, subbing zucchini for the cukes.

Becky, Does this look familiar? 

No, that's not it. The recipe I'm talking about is for the traditional dip -- eggplant, tahini, garlic, lemon, salt. But this is intriguing!

I'd rather avoid using rennet formaking homemade cheeses. Is lemon juice just as good? If so, why isn't it used more for commercial production?

That's a complicated question with complicated answers. I'd direct you to this forum, which looks to have a lot of experienced cheesemakers.

Well, you've applied the toppings, closed the lid, and cooked us until our crust becomes charred in spots, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's. Hope our a's were helpful.

Now for the giveaway books. The chatter who asked about how to do VB6 while eating dinner leftovers for lunch will get a copy of, natch, "VB6." The chatter who asked about what to do with that half-gallon of milk will get "Mad Hungry Cravings." Send your mailing info to Becky at, and she'll get them to you.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating, and reading.

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is editor of the Food section; joining us today are deputy editor Bonnie Benwick, staff writer Tim Carman, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin and editorial aide Becky Krystal.
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