Free Range on Food: Canning, Mother's Day, ethnic markets and more

May 07, 2014

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

Hi, all, and welcome to today's chat! We have a room full of special guests today. Two of them are here to answer questions about their new series in WaPoFood: Vered Guttman, who is writing about scouting for products at the area's ethnic markets (first up: Middle Eastern!); and Cathy "Mrs. Wheel-" Barrow, whose Canning Class will tell us how to put up the season's bounty all the way into fall -- and then what to do with those jars. And then we have Kathy Gunst, cookbook author and radio personality extraordinaire who wrote a lovely essay today on Mother's Day memories. We'll also have us regulars, including Carrie "Spirits" Allan and Jim "Smoke Signals" Shahin, with a possible appearance by Tamar "Unearthed" Haspel.

So lots of experts on hand to handle any cooking (or other food) question you want to throw our way.

Let's get this started! To tempt you, we'll have two giveaway books for our favorite chatters.

What's on your mind?

Hi! We are going out for lunch on mother's day with my MIL, but afterwards going back to her house. I want to bring some really light dessert to enjoy at the house afterwards. Problem is I am super short on time, so I need it to be something that is not time consuming to make. Right now I was thinking parfaits, but not sure if that is the right direction. Thoughts! Thanks!

How about something that's light and make-ahead? You can bring the components over to her house. I vote for Stephanie Witt Sedgwick's recipe from this week, Vanilla Yogurt Bavarians With Strawberry Sauce.

Vanilla Yogurt Bavarians With Strawberry Sauce

I was going to suggest something very similar. Spring strawberries, sliced thin and sprinkled very lightly with sugar. Serve over fruit sorbet or ice cream or with meringue cookies.

I love homemade strawberry preserves, but don't like all the sugar the recipes call for. I use Pectin, but would like to dramatically cut down on sugar. Can I cut down the sugar by at least 1/2, without affecting how it will set up?

This is the perpetual question! I promise to answer in more detail in a future column, but the short answer is yes. Look for no sugar or low sugar pectins that replace sugar with fruit juice, Pomona brand pectin (at Whole Foods) for a looser set with no or low sugar, or make fruit purees or freezer jams, which require no sugar at all. 

Last week someone referred to a list of farmers markets. Why hasn't there been one for Montgomery County since the Rockville market opens on Saturday?

Not sure I'm understanding the question! Here's our map, and here's our list of Maryland markets, broken down by county. They were published last week.

Question for Joe and/or Bryant (if he's here): so I want to start working with tofu more. I've trying satueeing it in the past but my partner hates the texture. Too "slimy" he says. I'm intrigued by roasting the tofu as in today's curry recipe--does that make for a (pardon the term) meatier texture? Any other preparations that can avoid the slime trap? Thanks! Loved the article!

So glad you're intrigued by Bryan's fantastic recipe. (He's not here, sadly -- but maybe another time!) Indeed, roasting the tofu dries it out somewhat; it's anything but slimy. I use this technique a lot -- I have a pretty great (IMHO) baked/marinated tofu recipe in my latest book, and there's a good version here in WaPoFoodland, too!

Hi. I'm trying to find a good cookbook for legumes - lentils, beans etc. It doesn't have to be vegetarian. Any recommendations? Thanks!

Hi Rangers, I just purchased Leopold Bros. New York Apple Whiskey last week, and tried it out this weekend - very sweet up front, but all in all a nice drink over ice for the upcoming warmer weather. A suggested recipe on their site called for mixing it with ginger ale - do you think something like Gosling's ginger beer could work as well? I'm not normally a sweet drink-type person, so any other recipe recommendations you have would be most appreciated!

I think you're on to it. Cut the sweetness with the sharp ginger bite of ginger beer. And maybe lime!


I like Gosling's for some drinks, but you might try some other ginger beers as well. And one thing I'm a fan of is some of the local Jamaican juices -- usually you can get them at co-ops and Whole Foods -- that contain a lot of spicy, butt-kicking ginger. They're great as cocktail mixers and much less sweet than some of the commercial ginger ales (some of which, not naming names but Schmanada Dry comes to mind) barely taste like ginger at all. 

Any suggestions for a vegetarian dish that uses eggplant and mushrooms? They only have a few days left in the fridge...

Two ideas. First one you roast the eggplant whole until it's just soft and then cut into slices alternating with tomato slices and fresh mozzarella slices. Sprinkle musrhooms on top with a splash of white wine and bake until soft and cheese bubbles. 

Other idea: roast until soft and then puree with a touch of tahini and garlic and olive oil and lemon juice. Saute mushrooms with olive oil and garlic and sprinkle on top of the eggplant puree.

I had never heard of kashk until today. I admit I'm somewhat intimidated. Any suggestions for the best way to ease into using this very interesting-sounding product? Thanks!

Kashk, especially the liquid one, is a great thing to get to know better. Get a jar of Golcin's kashk (it says whey cheese on it) and just taste it directly from the jar. You'll immediately love it, I'm sure. The recipe for baby zucchini in kashk we included in the Section shows a simple way to use it - mix the kasha with hot water and pour over the veggies. It's that simple and so good.

I'm planning a menu for Mother's Day but everything needs to be baked in the oven at different temperatures. The potatoes are up to 500, the baked french toast is 425, the egg dish is 375. I can use my toaster oven for one but how do people usually solve this dilemma? Thanks!

You might want to rethink your menu. If you have one oven and one toaster oven why not think about doing the potatoes in a skillet? Thinly sliced and sautéed in walnut oil like a big gorgeous potato pancake? 

I'm looking to make a punch for a party, but I don't want to have to buy a bunch of different bottles that require I use only an ounce or two. Any ideas for a simple, spring punch?

I don't know how many people you're serving, but I'd try making a good strong lemonade and adding gin and thinly sliced cucumbers. Go for a ratio of about 3:1 lemonade to gin, float the cukes on top, and let it sit for a while so the flavors will combine.  Serve it in cups over cracked ice. You could also float some fresh mint in the bowl itself, but it might be more effective as an aroma if you add a sprig to each drink -- just slap it between your palms before you tuck it into each glass.

just wanted to say thanks for featuring Bryant Terry's book this morning. I have been overwhelmed (in a good way!) with the wonderful vegan cookbooks out there and this one is completely exciting. While I have you--any ideas for a fun, interesting, fresh side dish for a family cookout this weekend? Extra points if it's vegan.

How bout this Smoky Cabbage and Udon Slaw? You can omit the tempeh if you'd like, to keep it side-dishy.

Dear Ms. Guttman, As one of your fans, please let me ask you what is the difference between the mediterranean food as you have abroad than this we have in Israel?

Dear Alma, great question. I think the main difference is that in America we have access to more ingredients from the Middle East, including Syria, Iran, etc. than what's available in Jewish cities in Israel. 

Joe--We finally found an outpost of No. 1 Sons during a weekend adventure, and I wanted to rave a little (just a little! I know everyone's heard it before!) about how amazing their kimchi (and kale-chi!) is! I'll be back this weekend for a big tub of sauerkraut!

Oh, man -- they're so good, aren't they? I love them. Which outpost did you hit?

I wrote about the new generation of D.C. area picklers about a year ago.


The thing that separates No. 1 sons (and the reason I love their stuff) is that they produce their products the old-fashioned way: with lactic acid fermentation, meaning they let nature take its course and transform those foods into something funky and delicious.

I was the very lucky recipient of a copy of your book, "Notes From A Maine Kitchen" last year, after you shared your stories of meals given during times of illness. I never got the thank you note out, but it is a treasured book in my collection. Your article today summoned back all the homey feelings that make me pull it off the shelf again and again--to read the recipes, yes (they're wonderful!), but also to read the stories alongside them.

I am so thrilled to hear that. Thanks so much for letting me know. That means a lot to me. Enjoy!

My wife had a wonderful salad at a restaurant last week containing farro, frisee, and asparagus. When we tried to duplicate it at home we could not find frisee at any supermarket. The closest we came was a bag of mixed greens that might have had 10 percent frisee, at most. Do you know where we could get some or, alternatively, what to substitute to get the mildly bitter flavor? Thanks

To my mind, there is no substitute for frisee, with its unique combination of bitterness and ticklish texture.

With that in mind, I called the Whole Foods on P Street NW and talked to a manager in the produce department. He said, and I quote, "It's been out for awhile. I don't know when we will be receiving it. . .The warehouse doesn't make it available."


This sounded bad, especially after I called the new Trader Joe's on 14th Street and learned it also didn't have frisee. But then I reached the produce department at Harris Teeter in Adams Morgan (1631 Kalorama Road NW, 202-986-1415). An employee there said the manager had just order some frisee today. It should arrive tomorrow afternoon. It runs $1.99 a pound.

If Adams Morgan should prove a neighborhood too far to travel, you can substitute some other member of the chicory family, such as Belgian endive or escarole.

In the recipe for Home-Canned Artichoke Hearts, Cathy said, "For safety's sake, do not alter the ... processing time." Since I live at 2000 ft. I must alter processing times. Would you consider editing the recipe to clarify that? Thanks, Cathy. (And, thanks for your phenomenal pickle relish recipe. I've been making it for several years and my family claims they would die if I stopped making it)

Hi, thanks so much for pointing that out. We will make the edits. Glad you like the pickle relish! It's a favorite of mine, too.

Hi Rangers, I have a bag of pitted dates in the fridge and would love some ideas. I made a terrific date and walnut rum cake during the winter, but the kids couldn't eat it.

This is a divine snack or appetizer. Serve dates stuffed with a whole almond or with a little goat cheese. Sprinkle with olive oil and roast at 425°F for 5-7 minutes. Top with some crunchy sea salt and serve warm. 

That sounds so delicious!

How about putting them in pecan pie

and they are pretty fab in this roasted cauliflower dish:

and then there's always a good salad

I baked a Smithfield ham earlier this week, ate some of it for dinner these past two nights, and now am still left with 3/4 of it (5-6 pounds). Any good ideas for leftover ham, besides sandwiches and bean/ham soup?

I use leftover ham in quiches, frittatas and stir fries with spring vegetables. Also try cutting thin slices and sauté them in a hot skillet. Add a drizzle of maple syrup on top (and cook until it caramelizes) for a delicious maple-glazed ham. Serve with fried eggs!


Personally, I love the idea of adding leftover ham to homemade ramen, as with this recipe from chef Haidar Karoum from Proof/Estadio/Doi Moi.


Here's the recipe from our database for Haidar's Better Than Instant Ramen.

Joe, Just wanted to say how much I'm enjoying your book. It's easy to make recipes for two or side dishes for main meals. I've recently discovered that I'm not deathly allergic (although my gut is still a bit prickly about it but it will adapt) to tofu and soy and so am trying our your tofu recipes. Firm and marinaded it seems akin to a cheese. I'm not entirely sure by what you mean by "custardy" tofu. Will that still absorb marinade and do you have additional tips for getting more flavor into tofu as I still find it a bit bland?

So glad to hear that you're liking EYV! 

By custardy, you I think are referring to my reference in the headnote to the Baked/Marinaded Tofu master recipe in which I say that this is my SECOND favorite style of tofu, after the custardy stuff you can get in Japan and in some restaurants here. By that, I'm referring to the freshly made (sometimes at the table), softly set tofu. It's a revelation, actually. If you want to make it yourself, Andrea Nguyen has instructions for it (and so much more) in her fabulous book "Asian Tofu."

As for getting flavor into it, I think it's helpful to press it and to marinade it before baking -- and for texture, to dust with a little cornstarch before baking, to get it crisp. (And to salt it after it comes out of the oven!). You can save that leftover marinade, too, and boil it down and use it as a glaze or some such.

Hi Cathy! What is the generally accepted amount of time to keep a pectin-less refrigerator jam? MIne seem fine after one year, but is it safer to toss at that point? Is it better to freeze? Can regular Ball jars go in the freezer?

Your jam would probably be "safe" for eons if frozen. The question is will it be tasty. After a year, most jams, frozen or on the shelf, will lose their oomph.

It's unlikely your freezer jam will or could make you sick.

Regular Ball jars can go in the freezer. Only fill them about 2/3 full to allow for expansion below 32°F.

I am thrilled to see Cathy Barrow will be sharing preserving projects with us regularly. I would like to try the artichokes but I rarely see them in DC/NoVa area grocery stores. Any place besides Whole Paycheck that I should try? Do ethnic markets stock them? Two birds, one stone....

Try Trader Joe's or Costco. That's where I find them at the most reasonable prices. During the artichoke season, I once spotted them at HMart. I canned a LOT of artichokes that year. 

I'd skip Gosling's ginger beer personally, since it has HFCS and really is just trading on their famous name for a so-so ginger beer. Personally I prefer Reed's or Fever Tree. Also a nice slice of ginger can heighten the sensation of giner just by its scent.

Yup, agreed. I do Gosling's ginger and Gosling's dark rum occasionally for dark and stormies -- I do think they're good together, marketing and all! -- but there are plenty of other options out there. It's really a matter of taste, and how much sweetness you want with the particular drink you're making.

Any idea if these stores or those nearby have bitter almonds or madlehb (sp?), the latter the crushed cherry stone/apricot stone paste that smells so richly of almonds?

Unfortunately, bitter almonds are illegal in the US because of their cyanide content... I get those in Israel. You can get the bitter almond concentrate online though. It's the best way to add strong almond flavor to marzipans etc. Mahlab, crushed cherry stones, is available at Yekta and other stores.

Seems to me there used to be a way to search the $20 diner by neighborhood, but I can't seem to find it now that I need it. Any suggestions?

The Going Out Guide team pulled together this handy neighborhood guide of places where I dined in the first year. You can find it here.


You can also find the latest from the $20 Diner on the main Going Out Guide page too. Check it out.


And thank you for reading!

I tried No. 1 Sons' kimchi on Joe's advice a few weeks ago, and I have to say that I was a bit disappointed. While the flavor was decent, it was not terribly authentic. Any other kimchi suggestions?

I love their stuff, but if you're hung up on authenticity, head to H Mart or Super H, and look for the kimchi they make regularly in many varieties and sell in big bags. Or make your own!

Hi Joe! Love these chats. I have a two year old son and a thirty year old husband. The husband doesn't eat tomatoes or onions so most pasta sauces are out of the question. He'll have tomato sauce straight from the can if used on pizza or in lasagna but that's it. I would love some yummy not too spicy sauce recipes that would work on pastas that will make dinner a little easier. Thanks!

How about pesto? A basic basil one is great, but we also have some interesting varieties in our database:

Beet Pesto Pasta

Beet Pesto Pasta

Swiss Chard and Rosemary Pesto Pasta

Swiss Chard and Rosemary Pesto Pasta

Rice Noodles With Broccoli Pesto

Rice Noodles With Broccoli Pesto

I tried to scrub off the brown discoloration on the bottom of my enameled cast iron Dutch oven (Cuisinart brand) using Bar Keeper's Friend, but I think it ruined the finish on the enamel surface. It is 'etched' and rough (although still more-or-less non-stick). Is the pot still safe to use? Is there anything I can do to restore the smooth finish? I am usually a fan of BKF for cleaning my sink (porcelain) and stainless steel pans but it really did no favors for this particular pot.

Are you sure the pitting/roughness wasn't caused by whatever put the brown discoloration there? No matter. I've been in the same boat and continue to use the same 40-year-old Le Creuset Dutch oven, to no ill effect. Have you contacted Cuisinart to see what it recommends, and whether or not they will exchange, etc?

I found some new Ball blue jars that match the color of the old canning jars from the 1800's, of which I am fortunte to have 2. Do these new blue jars offer superior preservation quality? Or are they just more expensive because they look more interesting?

The blue jars are pretty, but don't offer anything special in terms of preservation. It's my understanding the blue and green jars were aimed at crafters. That makes sense because a lot of foods look green and not very appealing behind blue glass. Peaches, for instance. 

I was SO happy to see this article! My mom and I love going to ethnic markets and just staring at (and poking) and everything. When I go on vacation I always drag my husband to the local grocery store. My favorite experience was a market in France where a deli had something that looked like meatloaf with a cooked duck head garnished on top. The lady behind the counter caught me pointing, oops :)

Thanks for sharing! Hope to find exciting items like that, duck head or not, around here as well.

Our area has a wealth of ethnic markets, some of which have been flying under the radar for years. I just learned about this French-Filipino market in Arlington a couple of months ago. It sells hot foods, canned goods and baked goods.


It's been around more than three decades!

I have a no-bake cookie recipe that calls for honey, dry milk, wheat germ, and peanut butter (that's it). They were a FAVORITE of mine as a kid, and I'd love to make them again, but have since gone vegan. Can you think of any substitutes for dry milk powder? I was thinking about grinding up rolled oats into a powder, but just wondering what other ideas are out there....

A quick search of vegan forums seems to bring up these ideas: powdered almond milk, powdered soya milk (who knew?), or leaving it out. Chatters?

We're going to lunch/early dinner with mother-in-law who lives in a retirement home. Too late to get lunch reservations there so I'm thinking of light picnic foods. Any creative ideas? She is a very light eater and loves sweets, particularly ice cream.

Keep it simple. Maybe good bread and ripe cheeses. Steamed vegetables with a green goddess dip (made with fresh spring chives) and fresh strawberries.  You can serve the berries on the ice cream or make a simple chocolate sauce to pour over store-bought ice cream. 

So where can I find an ethnic market with good Polish and irish products???? Or hagis?

Still researching... but Polish foods you can get at Russian and Eastern European stores, like the Kielbasa Factory and European Delight in Rockville.

I enjoyed that you included a recipe from a memoir, rather than a cookbook, for this week's Dinner in Minutes. It sounds like a great salad. Did you also read the book? I've heard about it and am wondering if it's worth reading. Thanks.

Hey, I still make Nora Ephron's vinaigrette from "Heartburn." Should I dip into the memoir-recipe pool every now and then?  Her salad's a nice idea for office potlucks as well as Dinner in Minutes

Molly Wizenberg's a charming writer, a natural voice. I recommend this book to you.  If you're local, you're in luck -- she''ll be at Politics and Prose on May 10. 

link for roasted cauliflower and dates doesn't work

Try this one. 

Speaking of beans and legumes, and creative ideas for beans? I do black beans in the slow cooker a lot with jalapeno, chicken broth, cumin, onion, garlic, a splash of white wine vinegar, and some other spices and it is great. But I'd like to try something a bit different/get a whole different flavor with them. Ideas?

I regularly shop at the large Asian mega-marts (Fresh World, Lotte Plaza, etc.) and I agree with Guttman that there are fun and delicious finds to be had. Any chance there is a list somewhere of smaller markets worth checking out? For example, I love the small thai market around the corner from Duangrats in Falls Church.

Thanks! In each of the next installments we will concentrate in a different ethnicity and will definitely try to recommend all these wonderful little grocery stores around here.

This list is not complete, but a Web site for diplomats has compiled a fairly lengthy list of international markets in the region.

We made this savory French toast with ham, swiss cheese and kale to use up our Easter ham and it was wonderful!:

And of course you could add to the Mother's Day crepe recipe by adding small cubes to the batter or sprinkling them on top of the finished herb crepes. 

Is there any chance of video tutorials for canning? This is a skill I very much want to learn, but I'm intimidated by the possibility of making my loved ones sick if I don't have the technique right.

I can't answer the video question, but I can address the other issue. 

It's extremely unlikely you could make your loved ones sick. The only requirement is following recipes and directions. The minute the cook decides to add a little more sugar or salt and the ratios are changed, all bets are off.

I can answer the video question: We're hoping!

Hi Rangers! I confess to being a fan of many cooking shows, particularly Chopped and Top Chef. I see that a lot of these shows also have cookbooks, and I'm tempted to buy one - any recommendations for which ones are particularly good? I'm a pretty adept cook.

Gonna toss this one out for crowd sourcing. I watch more competition cooking shows than I should, and for some reason I can count on ring fingers the number of times I wanted to make one of those dishes  -- especially "Chopped."  But that's just me. 

I have used a local middle eastern market as a reliable source of dates and green tea. I was intrigued by your descriptions of the date and pomegranate molasses. Would the date molasses be similar to sorghum molasses while pomegranate molasses would be similar to black strap molassesw? Could I use them in similar ways?

Bonnie Benwick advises that sorghum molasses is not as sweet and has a more assertive flavor than the date molasses. I'm not sure about the black strap molasses. But the nice thing is, and the whole point here, you can try and experiment. Taste, see the difference and let me know how it came out.

Blackstrap molasses has a VERY strong flavor. Intense and bitter. So be cautious! 

Smitten Kitchen has a fantastic broccoli "pesto" sauce for pasta, made by pureeing broccoli and adding parmesan or feta (I don't remember which, but I use feta). Delicious, adaptable for the health-conscious, and easy enough for a weeknight dinner.

Could it be this recipe, the one for spaghetti with broccoli cream pesto?

I love bitter greens, and when I buy spring mix or field greens, or when I order a salad in a restaurant, it contains way too much of this very pretty thing that tastes totally yucky to me. It's green with deep red veining and stems. Can you tell me what it is?

Might be red chard.

Or radicchio? Not so green, but I always see a lot of it in mixes. Most varieties have much more red than green (if any green at all), but some are variegated.

I recently took out a jar of apricot preserves I made last summer from their storage carton. The jar was still sealed but the contents had turned brown. Tasted good, but an unappealing color. Any idea what might have caused this? Not enough lemon juice?

Jams turn brown (oxydize) when stored in a too hot space or a space with varying temperatures. Oxyidation happens with jars stored in a sunny space, too. Keep your pantry jars in a cool, dark space for the longest shelf life. 

I never get a chance to cook with them because they are my go to snack when I get home. I eat them juast as they are. Or even better I eat the medjool dates and spit the pit.

I also love adding pitted dates to savory salads with fresh mint and sautéed leeks

One of my favorite topping combos for a roasted sweet potato is this: dates, walnuts, coconut oil, coconut flakes (unsweetened).

Stuff with a cheese of your choice! I like feta, particularly, but blue cheese seems popular. Wrap with bacon, throw it on the grill or under your broiler, and try not to burn your mouth eating them all at once.

I have been burned so many times by hot cheese. And yet I never learn.

Posting early. Is there anyplace to find padron peppers, either in a farmer's market, specialty store, or supermarket? I really want to try and make them myself. Thanks!

I saw shishito peppers at Wagshal's. I know they're not padron but a close cousin?

I need some myself for a recipe test, so thanks, Cathy! Reserving car2go pronto.

Second bean by bean - great recipes and good reading. My husband bought it for me and I read it on the plane!

Yep, I'm a fan, too.

I still make her linguini alla cecca when we can get good fresh tomatoes. It is to die for.

Ooh, just looked it up. (Like I need another pasta recipe to fall in love with.) I miss her, miss her. 

We're moving this weekend and some sweet friends just called to let us know they are dropping off a Boston Butt for us to save the hassle of cooking. How long will it keep in the refrigerator? Thanks!

It will keep for a few days, probably not longer than three or four. You should wrap the pork tightly in plastic wrap (or in an airtight container) before storing it in the fridge.

We always make ham salad (think tuna salad) with leftover ham. Makes a great sandwich!

I've seen the excellent Peleg brand at some Safeways. Also, there are other Persian groceries in rockville such as Sam's. Yekta is the best by far.

And it seems to cost a lot less at Yekta (the za'atar in cello packages). 

Adding sugar or salt should not cause an issue with canning as that would lower the liklihood that pathogenic bacteria would survive. The bigger issue would be to reduce how much salt or sugar or acid is added.

Maintaining the ratios in a recipe is the best way to reduce the likelihood that bacteria will survive. 

Greatest ingredient ever. Sub it for regular molasses in baked goods that can benefit from a bit of a sour taste. Nothing else like it.

I love using it to create a glaze for roast chicken or on roast beets.

Yep. I glaze roasted eggplant with it. And a million other things. I've also made my own: You just boil down the juice with sugar and a little lemon. Fantastic.

I didn't see the Occoquan Farmers Market listed this year. It's on Saturday mornings from 8-12 (May - October).

If it's not there we can figure out why and add it. Becky Krystal's on assignment today, and always on top of such things. 

Food journalist Julia Watson used to have the most complete guide to local ethnic food sources in her website She moved back to spend most of her time in the British Isles, and unbeknownst to her, due to back "rent", the site was taken down. From what I understand, she's hoping to get the data back together and have the site back online. I hope she does it, it was a great resource.

Yep, remember it well. EatWashington? She did a good job. 

I was so excited to see the Food Section (it was a good idea to renew my subscription even if just to read you guys on Wednesdays) and to see Yekta. We discovered this store a couple of years ago and absolutely love it! What great finds we have made in this store. I had to leave those chickpea cookies alone though (too delicious, and too fattening). Then to see Bryant Terry speak about Afro vegan food (I am swooning). I am torn between buying his beautiful book and getting it as an ebook so I can read it whenever I want versus having to carry it with me. In addition some friends and I are doing a one day foodie trip to NY tomorrow (superexcited about that and going to Pure Food and Wine). Thank you guys again for making my Wednesdays. I came into the office with the biggest smile on my face just feeling joyful.

What a nice flurry of compliments! You've got us smiling back.

ham: combine with potato and onion, butter and parsley in a scalloped Penn Dutch casserole called Yachskotl (I don't really know how to spell it, but it sounds like you are clearing your throat). ham salad, ham croquettes dates: sticky toffee pudding. Your kids will love that.


Make sure you are buying extra firm tofu and try to dry it out before cooking. Soft tofu is a little slimy but I can't imagine extra firm having a slimy texture. Also, if you're in the DC area, get the Twin Oaks brand -- it's really good and it comes already pretty dried out.

You sound like me! True, true, all true. Did you see my piece on my trip down to Twin Oaks?

Good afternoon! Can you please link to a few recipes or the article on making homemade ice cream? I would like to start now that the weather is warming up!

Sure thing. Here's our ice cream graphic from last year.

A few recipes:

Brown Sugar Ice Cream

Brown Sugar Ice Cream

Honey Sunflower Ice Cream (amazing)

Honey Sunflower Ice Cream

Baklava Ice Cream

Baklava Ice Cream

And more.

Finally I know how to use the Kashk I bought on impulse at Yekta. For others, look up these three books: Asian Grocery Store Demystified, Latin/Carribean grocery stores Demystified, and Indian Grocery Store Demystified. I hope Vered will write The Middle Eastern Grocery Store Demystified.

Those are handy guides! Vered's in Gathering Mode, definitely. 

What does one do with malab? I bought some, and now I can't remember why!

I know the problem, you buy an exotic ingredient and have no idea what to do with it! I have quite a few of those at home. It's another reason for writing this series. Mahlab has an amazing aroma and is used mainly in baking (for ma'amoul and Ka'ak). Try adding a tablespoon of Mahlab to your cookie recipe.

I have a limequat tree and decided to make marmalade with my very limited quantity of fruit. I cut the fruit in thin slices (I only had 3/4 cup) and added one cup of sugar. I let it steep for about twelve hours in the fridge then I transferred it to a pan, brought it to a boil and cooked it about five minutes. I ended up with marmalade flavored glue. Using a lot of muscle, I can just barely dig a spoonful from the jar. Did I even need to cook it? What could I have done differently? It tastes pretty good so I want to conquer this.

Citrus fruits have a ton of pectin, so marmalade is a tricky jam. First, the rind must be removed, without the pith, and diced or sliced. The fruit is then juiced and added to the mix. Without the added juice, the pectin couldn't bind to anything, so made glue.

You should research recipes, particularly the River Cottage Preserves book, which has a great explanation for marmalades. Many canners use a three cook method, where the fruit and sugar are brought to a simmer, then there is a rest period for 24 hours and another simmer and another rest. Finally, the rind is cooked in the syrup just until set. This allows the rind to candy. 

Loved your story on Middle Eastern markets and ingredients this morning. Freekeh sounds really interesting. I love smoky flavors, so I bet I'd really like this. Do you know where specifically I could find this ingredient? (particularly in DC). Would love to try it.

Thank you! Freekeh will be available in most of the markets we list at the end of the article, including those in DC. But freekeh is also available at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, though not all brands have the same smokiness aroma.

And I can speak from personal experience that some of the freekeh brands at WFM, ones that are seasoned, are super expensive per serving. 

I know this the wrong chat, but do you have any advice for keeping crows from pulling up all the corn, bean, squash and cucumber plants shortly after they germinate? Last year I had to replant our garden 3 times becaue the crows walked right down the rows plucking each plant.

Gardening columnist Adrian Higgins says "I would start them in pots indoors or on a porch (they'll need light) and then stick them in as young transplants."

I want the recipe!

Chatter, you heard the request: Help us out!

I'm interested in the artichoke canning recipe that was in the paper today and hope to find the time to try it. I did a lot (not enough) of canned asparagus last year and also hope to get more canned before the season is gone. On that note, I'm not sure if Mrs Barrow lives around here as she indicated that asparagus is just showing up, but at the Courthouse farmers market in Arlington, asparagus has been available for 3 weeks from one vendor. Each of the subsequent weeks at least one additional vendor has shown up with some as well. So it's plentiful now if you're looking for it!

I am local! And there was some, not a lot, two weeks ago. Last week there was more, and I expect this will be a good week for asparagus pickling!

It doesn't have hyssop, which is a requirement for real za'atar. Not thyme, which is similar but not the same. Others will argue with me, but try the kind with hyssop and you won't go back.

Ah, the REAL za'atar assertion! You know there are many, many variations based on different parts of the Middle East, even varying by family! I don't know why we need to choose -- we can enjoy lots of them.

How much money would it cost to start making jam? My mom used to make strawberry jam every summer and I'd like to try it. So for the large pot, the jars, the jar holders in the pot, and a box of jars. How much would it cost?

I'd check around at yard sales and discount stores for the big canning pot. They're around and usually under $10. At hardware stores and grocery stores, look for the set, under $30., that includes a jar lifter and one or two other tools. New jars are under $12 per dozen, but they can be found second-hand, too. New lids and rings are very inexpensive. 

I'm guessing that Wegmans carries baby artichokes. At least in the Rochester stores my mom was always able to find them around Thanksgiving for a great appetizer (pan fried w/ some herbs).

Great info! Thank you.

or is it just pomegranate concentrate? Asking because I would prefer the latter.

I have a jar right here in my kitchen and the ingredients list: concentrated pomegranate juice, citric acid, sugar and water. So sugar is the third ingredient!

Those labeled "Pomegranate concentrate" have no sugar. The "Pomegranate molasses" has. But double check the ingredients list to make sure.

Glad to know it's at Whole Foods. Is there a particular brand there that has a nice smokiness? Thanks for the heads up on cost. I'm not often in the neighborhoods with Middle Eastern markets, although if I happen to be, I'll certainly check them out.

I have to say, the ones I tried were all pre-seasoned, and no, I didn't pick up on that great smokiness. But it's been awhile since I explored -- other chatters have thoughts?

Amazing choy aka cabbage selection. Things you will never see anywhere but Asia. I get lost in the aisles just picking and choosing. The only caveat I have is that the only sambal oelek/ölek they have is the Sriacha maker's, whereas I'd like the Indonesian/Dutch version which for the life of me I cannot find! Or sambal Bajak.

Good intel -- thanks!

Not local but made in NY (at least used to be) - Mother in Law's. Quite good and vegan. I bought it by mail order via food52 the first time years ago, but you can find it locally, albeit pricey, at Fresh Market.

Appreciate the rec!

My mother who lives in Florida loves peanut butter. I was thinking of making her peanut butter cookies or fudge or some kind of treat tonight to put in the mail tomorrow. (She really does have everything she needs or buys herself everything but she doesn't indulge in peanut butter as much). Any suggestions for something that mails well and either stays well or freezes well as she lives alone and won't eat it all at once?

How 'bout this granola? Or these globs.



...that their address and phone number is not on their website. Geesh.

Not on the homepage, which is a pet peeve of mine, but on the "contact" page.

Do you know by chance, which market carries the pomegranate molasses?

I think just about every Med. market will carry it; and I think even Whole Foods has it now. 

Here it is!

I have a head of green cabbage to use and thought you'd hooked me up with the Smoky Cabbage and Udon Slaw. Alas, I am an apartment dweller without a grill. Can I adapt the recipe or do you have any other suggestions for using up cabbage? FYI, it's about 10 days old at this point (eeek?) but seems firm and crispy still.

Great! Sure thing on doing it inside -- broil that cabbage!

Sorry to the person posting the correction, but the recipe for za'atar isn't set by any law, it's ALWAYS different depending on using it. It's a bit offensive to suggest that one person's is wrong because it's different. If you want standardization, it's the wrong spice mix for you.

Well, that's a big stronger than how I said it, but...

Nigella lawson has coffee ice cream she makes with condensed milk and no churning or machine necessary.

What, no link? 

OK, after months (years?) of sort of/deliberately avoiding using curry powder in recipes (don't ask me why, maybe b/c the smell, while good, is so strong), I actually made two recipes from "Super Natural" cookbook by Heidi S. that used curry powder--and guess what? WOW! Was so surprised that the actual flavor was much more nuanced/less strong than just the smell of it in the jar! So now I'd like to continue on and give it more tries...but as a newbie to Indian (esp.) cooking, I would like to start out on the conservative side. Any suggestions for recipes to try? Thanks!

Well the classic is pairing curry with chicken. I love to braise chicken thighs with curry and cinnamon and fresh ginger and add coconut milk and let it cook until it's moist and juicy and full of the spices. 

Yes, I saw your Twin Oaks article and that alerted me to the brand! Great article! Their tofu is really great, only about 50 cents more expensive, and I love that they're local and not using Monsanto soy.

Yep, they're a good bunch, with a good product.

There is a Martha Stewart recipe that uses raw butternut squash and dates. Extremely yummy.

This one, right? Looks good!

Note that I said that others would argue, but my main point is that the hyssop version does taste different (and in my opinion better) than the non-hyssop versions. I think it is worth the minor extra cost. Others WILL disagree, but try for yourself.

It's the "real" that gets people, right? But I think you know that.

Rodman's has a small section of middle-eastern foods with several brands to choose from.


Any idea where Oh! Pickle is these days? This past weekend I tried Eastern Market (where I had last seen them), but no dice. I'm craving their half sours and pickled beets! Thanks!

Arondo Holmes, owner of Oh! Pickles, says he hasn't given up on pickles yet, but that business at farmers markets as slowed down. He says you can still find his pickles at the Saturday market in Purcelville; the Sunday market in Dale City; and the Saturday market in Great Falls.


Holmes has been focusing a lot of his attention on his other business, the Hondo Coffee Co.

Is available at the Shoppers Warehouse off rockville pike, along with some of the most common middle eastern ingredients such as rose and orange blossom water, fava beans, semolina, etc. also date syrup but not a very good brand.

Fine, here it is. It's in her new Niggelisima cookbook. 

Glover-Archbold Park is a national park. Foraging, or removing any plant or animal, is illegal in any national park.

I contacted the National Park Service, and spokesman Jeff Olson just checked the regulations and sent me this e-mail:


"There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer to the question/statement about foraging in national parks. You can see from the regulation that there are prohibitions and times when a superintendent determines gathering by hand is allowed.


From the Code of Federal Regulations that cover the National Park Service

36 CFR 2.1(c)



(1) The superintendent may designate certain fruits, berries, nuts, or unoccupied seashells which may be gathered by hand for personal use or consumption upon a written determination that the gathering or consumption will not adversely affect park wildlife, the reproductive potential of a plant species, or otherwise adversely affect park resources.

(2) The superintendent may:

(i) Limit the size and quantity of the natural products that may be gathered or possessed for this purpose; or

(ii) Limit the location where natural products may be gathered; or

(iii) Restrict the possession and consumption of natural products to the park area.

(3) The following are prohibited:

(i) Gathering or possessing undesignated natural products.

(ii) Gathering or possessing natural products in violation of the size or quantity limits designated by the superintendent.

(iii) Unauthorized removal of natural products from the park area.

(iv) Gathering natural products outside of designated areas.

(v) Sale or commercial use of natural products."

For peanut butter lovers, try peanut butter flour (I got my at Trader Joes). I think I subbed it for 1/2 the flour in cookies and they were WAY TOO GOOD!

I think I will pick up some date molasses and use that to make some ice cream this weekend. Based on your description of the flavor, that should work really well instead of plain molasses.

How long does simple syrup last in the fridge, and what's the best way to store it? Now that it's getting warmer (finally!), I'm trying to be more budget-minded by making iced coffee at home, and it's easier for me if I can prep a week's worth or so at a time. Thanks!

Properly sealed, it'll last indefinitely. 

I make a few cups at a time and store it in the frig in a sealed Mason jar for up to 2 weeks. Or more...

Made veg singapore noodles with homemade curry powder. Roasted the spices before putting in blender. WOW it was amazing - so fresh tasting.

Freshly toasted and ground spices are always better!

is usually available at H Mart and similar Asian supermarkets.

Regarding not changing the ratios for the (or other canning) recipe in today's paper, I note that there is no volume listed for the amount of juice from the lemons. Since if there is not enough liquid the recipe says to top off with olive oil I'm assuming it's there not for it's acidity but for flavor only? Could it be problematic if there is too much lemon juice, therefore possibly diluting the acidity if the lemons aren't acidic enough?

There is enough wiggle room to manage a tablespoon of olive oil or lemon juice either way. But it's not wiggly enough to start reducing the vinegar, which is essential for shelf stability.

My family made chocolate covered peanut butter eggs. Though when we were in Ohio, the local specialty was calling them Buckeyes and leaving part of the peanut butter uncovered from chocolate.

My family is trying to eat more fresh veggies, but I just can't make it to the store very often. What are some vegetables (fresh, not frozen) that will last a while in the fridge?

Carrots, green beans, snow peas, parsnips, turnips, bok choy and other cabbages have good refrigerator staying power. Think about serving them raw in salads as well as cooked/roasted/grilled. 

Well, you've topped us with feta and sprinkled us with za'atar, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for all of your great q's, and thanks to Cathy, Kathy and Vered for helping us handle them!

And now for the cookbook giveaways: The chatter who asked about "Delancey" by Molly Wizenberg will get ... "Delancey!" That should help answer your question about whether it's worth getting! And the chatter who asked first about non-slimy tofu techniques will get "Afro-Vegan" by Bryant Terry." AND, that's not all: The very first chatter, the one who asked about an easy Mother's Day dessert, will get Kathy's own "Notes From a Maine kitchen" - signed even!

Send your mailing info to, and she'll get them your way.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating, reading, canning -- and market scouting!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is editor of the Food section; joining us today are deputy editor Bonnie S. Benwick, staff writer Tim Carman, editorial aide Becky Krystal, Spirits columnist Carrie Allan, and Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin. Guests: Cookbook author Kathy Gunst; cookbook author and blogger Cathy Barrow; Vered Guttman, Washington caterer and food blogger for
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