Free Range on Food: We're here to answer all your cooking questions and how to read a recipe, a balanced muffuletta, this week's recipes and more.

Jun 03, 2020

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

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A warm piece of naan brushed with butter can fulfill two needs. It can nourish and comfort. 

With Becky Krystal’s thrifty stove-top naan, it is easy to make home-baked bread (no yeast required)  that folks can tear into together. 

We’re craving recipes like this one right now.

As some of us continue to write about ways to feed ourselves during this tumultuous time -- with Becky's tips for how to read a recipe, Charlotte Druckman's ways to cook creatively when eating solo and food writer Michael Ruhlman's take on how we're all embracing “optional ingredients” -- others on staff are writing about the impact of the pandemic and the protests taking place in our cities.

Recipes and cooking tips can seem trivial, with so much uncertainty and conflict swirling around us.   

Still, maybe you can bring solace to a family member or friend by delivering a food gift.

Maybe you can help to keep yourself and your housemates healthy with Ellie Krieger’s healthful upgrade to cole slaw, a vegetable-filled muffuletta salad, a springtime asparagus stir-fry or gluten-free pasta.

We'll have two special guests for our chat: Michael Ruhlman (who will give away a signed copy of his recent book "From Scratch") and Anela Malik, a D.C. blogger who has written about how to support black-owned restaurants and has compiled a list of such businesses in D.C. that are open during the pandemic.

Let's come together this afternoon over food. We're here to answer your questions, and we always learn a lot from you, too.

 

So glad you're here, as always! I bought some ready-made chicken salad from a local restaurant online on a whim, and while the flavor was good, the meat had been chopped very fine, making the whole thing kind of pasty and dry-tasting. I ended up making it into a kind of croquette by adding crushed crackers and roughly chopped almonds and scallions then coating the patties in almond meal and frying, but in case this happens again, what fixes would you recommend? If no cooked chicken on hand, maybe chickpeas? Potatoes?

Love your creative solution, with the almonds and scallions.
Chickpeas are a fine idea, too. You could spice it up with a little curry and a favorite pepper. Also, consider adding some crunch. Maybe toss in toasted pecans or another favorite nut. Rough chop celery or green apple and add that. Also, a few sliced grapes could help add a bit of zip. Then, eat it on crisp toast, pita or crackers.

Just wanted to say thank you to Mary Beth Albright for that sheet pan chicken dinner recipe. We loved it...and now we are cooking a sheet pan of veggies every few nights just for kicks!! One of the silver linings of this quarantine is having the time to try your wonderful recipes--thank you all so much!!

My 12-year-0ld, bored-from-remote-learning son read this over my shoulder and now he is impressed, so many thanks to you! I'll be doing something on grilled vegetables for the summer, so stay tuned.

VIDEO: Quarantine Cooking Show: Sheet Pan Dinner for Everyone

I had a housemate who once made several major substitutions when trying a recipe for the first time. I thought it odd (but in character for her) that she decided she didn't like the recipe.

Yeah, sometimes it feels like we should have a disclaimer on every single recipe -- we cannot guarantee results if you change things!

What can I bake that ISN'T a cheesecake with my limoncello? Surely it has a place in a summery dessert somewhere?

I don't have any baking ideas off the top of my head. Maybe someone else will.
We have several cocktail recipes in our Recipe Finder, but that's not what you're looking for, I know.
Just this week, a reader just told us she made this Nigella Lawson pasta recipe with limoncello rather than fresh lemon. Haven't tried it, but that sounds good. Might try it myself.

Due to a website issue, I thought I was ordering fermented jalapeno sauce from a local restaurant and got Pom Pom sauce instead -- which turns out to be an absolutely delicious riff on (from what the internet tells me) a Japanese steakhouse sauce also called Sakura sauce? Very creamy and thin, primarily a creamy, mayo-y base but with some nice heat, soy and ginger notes. It's dynamite on lentils and sweet potatoes, and they also suggest it for dipping shrimp. Any other ideas from the Food team?

Sounds like it would make an excellent potato salad dressing! Or for drizzling on any roasted vegetables: I'm thinking eggplant, cauliflower, carrots...

First, this bread is amazing! I absolutely love the lack of kneading required and have already made it several times and I love the flexibility. No grits - that's ok. Ground flax instead of whole - sure! Add some chia seeds - why not. What I'd like to try next is mixing in some olives to make an olive bread, but I'm concerned that it would mess with the yeast rising due to interactions with olive marinating liquid. Any suggestions on how to make this happen without ruining the bread?

For insight, check out Jim Lahey's No-Knead Olive Bread, which is very similar to that bread from the newsletter. It makes an interesting point -- it cuts the salt because of the brine from the olives.

Overnight Dutch Oven Bread

RECIPE: Overnight Dutch Oven Bread

Do you have any good and easy chocolate truffle recipes? I thought I'd hit the jackpot when I came across a recipe that only required condensed milk and high quality unsweetened cocoa powder. It was... not that great. It was too bitter still even after rolling them in sugar, and this is coming from someone who actually much prefers darker, more bitter chocolate! They weren't sweet enough and they weren't quite creamy enough.

Oof. Sounds a bit like Brazilian brigadeiros, which also usually have butter in them as well as sprinkles and other flavorful/pretty things on the outside.

A few recipes for you to consider:

Vegan Chocolate Truffles

RECIPE: Vegan Chocolate Truffles

Lavender-Blackberry-Raspberry Truffles

RECIPE: Lavender-Blackberry-Raspberry Truffles

Cocoa-Dusted Truffles

RECIPE: Cocoa-Dusted Truffles

RECIPE: Chai Truffles

As a white person, I am trying to be more cognizant of the fact that of how insidious racism can be -- even making its way into my kitchen at home! Do you have any tips or points of guidance to ensure cooking for my friends and family helps me work more towards racial equality?

This is a great question! I always say the first steps toward working towards equality is to focus on inclusion in your day to day life, as these are actions we can do continuously and repeatedly. As you're cooking for friends and family, you could try incorporating the work and recipes of diverse authors and chefs. I find that cookbooks in particular, in addition to giving us recipes, also tell incredible stories of culture and history... Try to find some new cookbooks to bring those diverse perspectives into your home. In addition, you can also think about where your ingredients come from. As much as you are able to purchase local, responsibly and fairly sourced ingredients goes a long way towards ensuring your food does not contribute to the exploitation of workers, who in the food production and farming space are most often minorities.

I can cook a lot of Indian food at home but naan has eluded me. Thank you for the precise instructions. If I don't have buttermilk, should I substitute the classic lemon-juice-treated milk?

I... really hesitate to recommend this. At least one commenter did not like the results when they did this -- they found the bread flat and brand. I swear, one day I'm going to write about this -- but I think the acidulated milk is one of the greatest culinary myths perpetrated on unsuspecting home bakers. It does not at all, in my mind, resemble buttermilk in flavor or texture. 10 minutes of doctored milk? Please. Okay, rant over.

Do you have yogurt or kefir? I think those would be much better swaps in this recipe. People also like the shelf-stable buttermilk powder, which I'm a bit iffier on, but that's probably a better bet than the milk, I think.

We don't have za'atar in our pantry, but we do have sumac, which I think is a primary ingredient. Is there something we should add to the sumac to approximate za'atar?

Yes, dried thyme, oregano, and/or marjoram are common herbs in za'atar, as well as toasted sesame seeds. 

"Za'atar" is the Arabic word for wild thyme, a variety that is not easy to come by here and that is traditionally part of the spice blend of the same name. There are as many recipes for the blend as there are cooks in the Middle East, where my family is from. I like a particularly tart/sumac-heavy za'atar, so my own blend is: 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, 1/4 cup sumac, 2 tablespoons dried thyme, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon sea salt. 

I'd like to try making onion rings at home but frying seems very overwhelming. What's the best way to buy enough oil for frying and how do you dispose of it after you're done?

I'm old school; I use a huge copper pot to fry everything and use a thermometer for temperature. I buy a big jug of vegetable oil, which is pretty inexpensive. When I'm done frying for the day, I store the oil into leftover quart takeout containers, taking out any solids left in the oil (if there are tiny bits, you can use a fine-mesh sieve to do this). I put the containers in the basement (cool and dark) and reuse the oil the next time I fry. I will use this oil several times, for up to a few months, as long as the oil isn't cloudy or doesn't smell bad. When it's time to toss the oil, the containers go in the trash (double bagged).

Another way to toss: I use old newspaper to soak up the oil, and then throw those away.

I picked up some whole spelt and whole rye flour and plan on freezing some of it to extend it's shelf life. Does freezing these (or any other) flours change how the flour reacts during baking? Are there any adjustments I should be making to compensate for frozen flours?

It's fine, no adjustments. 

Wow! This recipe is worth buying the book for. A totally new take on three bean salad. Roasting the yellow wax beans (I had to use a mix of yellow and green because that's all I could find) with the onion and garlic, then using the roasted garlic in the dressing, took it to a new level. I cooked the kidney and navy beans from dry in my instant pot and confess that I cooked them together because the timing was the same. The navy beans came out a little pink, but they tasted fine. I hope everyone who has bought the book tries this recipe.

So glad to hear this! Thanks for letting me know. That's a sleeper recipe!

My CSA box this week will include sorrel. I have no experience with it, but a quick search in your recipe finder showed a recipe in which arugula could substitute for sorrel. I’m wondering how a swap the other way would work. We make a white pizza topped with arugula that’s been tossed in a lemony dressing; do you think sorrel might work in that context? Any other recommendations for cooking with sorrel? Thanks!

I bet that would be a fine use for it. The flavor of the sorrel might be a bit more pronounced, but the combination sounds good to me. Glad you searched the Recipe Finder. Taste the sorrel. You could toss it into an herby salad or use it to make a sauce for salmon. 

Your Lasagna Recipe with homemade noodles is superb. I was skeptical, but noodles came out perfectly, from a mechanical standpoint. And, the texture is so delicate. I made the pesto version, and the meat version is next. Truly worth the effort. And, a wonderful project for “sheltering in place” time.

So glad you liked that recipe. Kari recently included it in a round-up of kitchen projects for home cooks who want to dig into something with multiple steps. If anyone missed it, you can find the fresh egg pasta feature here.

My recent Instacart order substituted a 6 pound can of chickpeas in place of individual cans. So I'm on the hunt for chickpea recipes that the while family would enjoy. Also, any idea if it's possible to freeze canned chickpeas?

Thank goodness you have too much of something that has such a long shelf life and is so versatile. Yes, you can freeze them.

Joe recently wrote about the Chickpea Coronation Salad. 

Also, here's a round up of 8 easy chickpea recipes that should help you turn those cans into yummy dishes.

"She didn't have potatoes so she used a cup of rice..." remember that one?

My doctor put me on a blood pressure medication that has some food restrictions including (sob!) no chocolate. What are your favorite non-chocolate cookie recipes?

So sorry about the new food restrictions -- a life without chocolate is hard for a chocolate lover! I'm an unabashed fan of Joe Frogger cookies (and it's not because I'm from the area where these cookies were invented). Give them a try - they're super-satisfying and chewy.

I tried to make food networks pineapple upside cake on the grill. It called for spiced rum, honey and brown sugar to "marinate" the pineapple prior to grilling and use the remaining in the cast iron skillet. The order was grilled pineapple, remainder of marinate, and then the cake mix. While the flavor was good getting it out of the cast iron was a nightmare. I greased the pan really well but everything stuck to the bottom. The cake was more moist than when I do it in the oven. What tips do you have to make it easier next time? The pineapple liked to fall through the grill grates so I did have to skewer it. Are there any other desserts that are perfect for the grill (not just fruit and whip cream but actual cake's or pies?)?

Sorry to hear you had trouble with that recipe. Glad it tasted good. Most recipes for pineapple upside down cake call for a generous amount of butter and sugar on the pan to prevent this. Also, make sure your cast iron is well-seasoned. 
Here are ideas for grilled desserts that might be fun for you to try. Grilled fruit and cakes recipes, including a grilled pineapple sundae. 

I’m a newbie to bread baking, and I ran into some problems making Olga’s recipe http://www.olgamassov.com/2020/05/challah/ I’m sure it’s not the recipe and could use some advice. When I got to the stage where I roll out dough into braids, the dough was too soft, I think, and some of the braids essentially just sank into a lump. I still baked it, and it wasn’t too bad but there were tears in the top and it didn’t look at all like a challah. I did the kneading in a KitchenAid with the dough hook but I might not have let it knead long enough. I’l also wondering if it was over or under proofed. I don’t have active dry yeast as specified in the recipe, so I used the SAF red label instant yeast that I have. Therefore, I didn’t bloom the yeast and just mixed it in with the dry ingredients per the suggestion of Stella Parks. Any tips or advice would be great.

Sorry to hear! I wonder if you maybe might have had more liquid than required? Did you weigh or measure out the ingredients? The volume measures I find to be quite unreliable, so I always, always steer people to get a cheap kitchen scale and use that instead. Want to shoot me an email at olga.massov@washpost.com? And if you have pictures of your process and final challah, we can figure this out. I bake this on a weekly basis, so maybe we can do this together this Friday? I'm happy to walk you through it by text or whatnot. Let me know!! And let's get you on your way to challah success!

I tried your baked butter mochi recipe that you published last summer this weekend and loved how easy it was! However, the flavors were not terribly exciting. In fact, if it hadn't been so easy, I don't think it would have been worth the effort. Do you have any tips on how I could (fairly easily) make it more interesting? I thought even adding some lemon zest would help. Other ideas? I'd like to make it again, especially as I have lots more sweet rice flour and no other idea of what else to do with it.

Zest sounds like a great idea!

RECIPE: Baked Butter Mochi

I used to post on Craigslist that I had free discards and people would always reply and say they wanted it. I would hang it on the doorknob and nobody ever came to get it. I gave up.

I tried the recipe for leftover sourdough starter popovers and the result was underwhelming. I filled regular muffin pan (every other opening) almost to the top of each opening, but the popovers barely rose at all during baking, less than half an inch. I used the optional cream, if that matters. The starter hadn't been fed for several days. Is it possible that it was too old or is there something else I could do?

Hi, I'm so sorry to hear that. I tested the popovers six times, and each time got consistent results. Also, about a dozen people have let me know of their success with it. Still, that doesn't help you... Did you use a regular muffin tin and did you preheat it in the oven while the oven was warming up and you were making the batter? The starter not being fed shouldn't make a difference. Did you use large eggs? And did you follow the recipe to the letter? I am wondering if maybe it was a fluke? Give it another go, perhaps, and shoot me an email at olga.massov@washpost.com if you have trouble again? Again, so sorry about that. I hope we can figure this out together.

Thanks for that, as a fellow solo quarantined person. I've found that the biggest change to my cooking is that I no longer have the bandwidth to plan meals then shop based on those plans. Instead, my infrequent grocery runs have become a standard list of staples (both perishable and not), and I figure out what to cook around that. I've also made some broad category changes (ie. I eat carbs like whoa but have decided pasta has no place here, while flour tortillas have become a daily use). It's been an interesting limitation, resulting in a lot more repetition and more "basics" than I used to do (ie. veggie stir frys, beans on rice, dinner leftovers get put in a tortilla with greens for a daily "weird burrito" lunch etc). So far, I'm pleasantly surprised I don't miss the more elaborate meals or variation... I think the thing that's been most annoying is the occasional cake/cupcake craving, bc before I'd make it and give away the majority but now with nowhere for it to go, and lacking the freezer space or the heart to manage not eating the whole damn thing, I go without.

You are speaking my language here. I've also made a list of everything I buy and order in rotation. I'm solo quarantining part of the time and recommend mug cakes for solo cake cravings. Yeah, yeah, the link is to my video so I'm plugging it but it's a really great, totally customizable, cake-in-a-minute recipe. 

VIDEO: Quarantine Cooking Show: Mug Cake Party

How solo cooks are managing in the pandemic -- without resorting to cereal for dinner

Good morning, all - honestly feel like a sh!t writing in about a birthday cake while the country is in a free fall, but here we are with a birthday in our house next week. I'd love any suggestions on a cake that could be made with a combination of what we have in the kitchen right now, which includes fresh lemons/limes, 2 lbs fresh rhubarb, various frozen berries, AP flour/gran sugar, the usual flavorings (vanilla, almond, etc.), general liquor selections, and standard pantry items (butter/eggs/leavenings, etc). What we don't lack is time and equipment - any ideas? Thank you for hosting the chat today!

Becky put a whole list of tasty layer cakes right here: 

7 layer cake recipes to help you bake your way through whatever life piles on

well...cough...I always have yogurt around and tthat was my first thought but then I thought I'd be inundated with the "all you have to do is put some lemon juice in milk!" crowd. Guess I should've gone with my gut, eh? Thank you! P.S. I just got "660 Curries" for my birthday (or rather it's on the way) so I'm delighted to have the recommendation!

Great! Consider yourself liberated from the crowd, lol.

You're going to love that book. It also served as the inspiration for my Simple Butter Chicken, which a few readers told me they made along with the naan. I am so impressed.

Simple Butter Chicken

There's also a sauteed okra and potato recipe in there, which my husband makes. It is phenomenal.

Just got my paws on some of these but I have no idea how to cook them. Treat them like scallops or halibut? Any ideas, please.

yes, I'd cook them like scallops. Or as you would halibut cheeks. If they're fresh they'll be delicious.

SO good - thanks for the recipe (note that I made it with ultrafiltered milk and it was fine - what would have been different if I'd used regular milk). Question - I generally like vanilla yogurt, rather than plain. Do I just add vanilla at the end, or sometime during the process - note that mine is homemade, so it has alcohol, if that matters. Tahnks!

I found that in my testing the ultra-pasteurized milk yielded less creamy results - because it's a less bacteria-friendly environment for the yogurt cultures to propagate. It's still good, but better with non ultra-p milk. Anyway, to make it taste like vanilla, you need a sweetener + vanilla flavor. I'd scrape 1/2 vanilla bean into the yogurt (or less, as i don't think it needs much) and then add a sweetener of your choice. Maybe honey? My 5 year old loves to drizzle his yogurt with a little honey and garnish it with berries. Hope this helps!

I wrote in last week looking for ideas for my leftover halibut. Thank you for the fish cake idea, Mary Beth! I tried your salmon cakes but used the halibut and parsley, dill, and thyme from my herb garden. My husband and I loved the result!

Wow, yay! Herby fish cakes sound amazing and now you're inspiring me to start picking a few leaves off of my still-small Thai basil plants.

My all-time favorite simple way to fix them is marinated in Italian dressing (vinaigrette) with bits of chopped mild onion, and red and green sweet peppers. Refrigerate at least overnight.

I have extreme opposition to turning the air conditioning on before June 15th. Any suggestions for something both meatless and heatless? (I'm willing to use the microwave, and I'll boil water in my electric kettle for tea, but that's it as far as hot food goes.) I'm getting sick of my usual sandwiches and salads.

Counting down the days until I have the ingredients to make Joe's Coronation Chickpea Salad.

Coronation Chickpea Salad

Similarly, if you start with store-bought rotisserie chicken, you might like my Double Mango Curry Chicken Salad Sandwich.

Double Mango Curry Chicken Salad Sandwich

I also did a cold noodle roundup the other year, and at least a few of the dishes meat your specs.

I know that I've seen cast iron pan questions in the not too distant past, but here I go. I bought a Lodge recently, but hadn't really used it. Now I have and I have some crud stuck to it. The steak was very tasty, though. I'm doing google search, so I am trying on my own, but what's the best way to clean the pan?

Becky addressed this in her guide to taking care of cast iron: How to take care of your cast-iron cookware and make it last forever
"If you need to scrape up crusted-on food, a paste of kosher salt mixed with oil or water can do the job. Chain mail scrubbers are another option. Just don’t use harsh cleaners or abrasives such as Bar Keepers Friend, which can actually remove the seasoning."


I love Bar Keepers Friend. It's terrific for lots of more gentle cleaning.

I’ve been seeing more talk regarding supporting black owned businesses during the pandemic. How can we best do this? And why is it so important?

The COVID pandemic affected minority communities, particularly Black communities, particularly hard. It exacerbated existing inequalities and is having a severe economic and health impact on the Black community.

 

A concrete way that people can support the Black community through this crisis is through their economic choices. For example, by spending with a Black-owned business, which are more likely to be located in predominantly Black neighborhoods and to employ Black workers than other businesses, you can ensure that your financial choices have as broad of an economic impact in the community as possible.

 

In the DC area, multiple efforts are underway to coordinate this type of direct, individual, economic action. One easy way is by ordering from a Black-owned local restaurant. There's a regularly updated directory of such restaurants open for takeout and delivery throughout the DMV available here

I was rearranging a pantry shelf and found some pretty old items in the back: — Unopened bottle of aged red wine vinegar, “BB” date 2/2017 — Sealed, never opened tube of tomato paste, best by 12/2014 — Open bottle of balsamic vinegar, cannot find a date but has to be more than 10 years old based on the only thing and circumstance I can recall having used it for Any conceivably usable or should I just toss them all?

Vinegar should be good indefinitely--unless there's mold on it. Tomato paste too if it still tastes good. you'll be cooking it regardless so it's safe. And vinegar is acidic enough to be safe as well.

Becky did a great guide to the shelf life of condiments: Here’s how long those condiments in your fridge and pantry are supposed to last


This is a long-standing joke in our family after everyone praised a particular chicken dish, then all went home and subbed out almost every ingredient and complained about it afterwards. Now we just say, "don't have __? Just add celery." No milk, no problem, celery! No sugar, you got it, just say the C word!

well, you have to use some common sense when it comes to substitutions. glad you all have a good sense of humor about it. sense of humor goes a long way.

So, I'm likely going to have to go back into the office soon, but REALLY don't want to use our shared kitchen (which might be closed anyway). Almost all of my meals require either refrigeration, heat, or both. I'm a pescatarian and can't eat bread. Any easy lunch ideas to take when I go back?

Salads, of course, and they can be bean salads as well, or include blanched hearty vegetables like broccoli. 

I live in a rural area which until recently had a mom & pop Chinese take-out place. The very hard-working couple who were its entire staff have taken a well-deserved retirement, and there has been no replacement. Do you have some favorite recipes emulating the take-out experience?

I will not stop singing praises to Ann Maloney's beef and broccoli, which is a staple in our house. It's so easy, so flavorful, and comes together really fast (as stir-frys do). Give it a go!

I'd also look for recipes that include frying beef or chicken coated in egg white and flour then stir frying them in a sweet sour sauce, such as orange beef. (Have one in my latest book but haven't published on line yet, sorry!) In addition to the excellent beef with broccoli which is def a go to.

You're in luck, because this is one of my favorite genres! I've run a few recipes, as well as tested a couple of archive ones.

Better Than Takeout Fried Rice

RECIPE: Better Than Takeout Fried Rice

Takeout-Style Sweet and Sour Chicken

RECIPE: Takeout-Style Sweet and Sour Chicken

Vegetarian Mapo Tofu

RECIPE: Vegetarian Mapo Tofu

Mushroom and Scallion Lo Mein

RECIPE: Mushroom and Scallion Lo Mein

Chicken With Cashews

RECIPE: Chicken With Cashews

Only works when you don't need the *flavor* of buttermilk. So, no for biscuits or bread, but I used it successfully once in a dark chocolate cake. However, I prefer using thinned yogurt or sour cream before the lemon/milk mixture. Actually, I prefer running to the store for buttermilk (pre-pandemic of course).

I made Becky's naan recipe with regular milk because that's what I had on hand. It turned out well. 

Ann with the report!

Hello! In an effort to support DC's Black community I often patronize POC-owned establishments, however I am also an athlete looking for "lighter" veggie-centric options. Any suggestions on specific places and/or guides that might cover this? Thanks!

There are multiple local options that fit what you're looking for. Some suggestions that come to mind immediately are Turning Natural, NuVegan, Ethiopic, or Keren, all Black-owned. For a full directory of Black-owned restaurants that are currently open in the DMV, check here. On that list there are multiple vegan, juice bar, or other options that fit what you're looking for. 

Cane vs. beet - does it really matter for the home cook?

No. I came across discussions of this when I did a previous post on sugar, and I think I remember reading that pastry chefs typically prefer cane but for most of the rest of us, no worries.

sugar

ARTICLE: These are the 4 types of sugar even the most casual baker should always have on hand

We had sorrel in ours a few weeks ago - I echo the recommendation for a sauce for salmon; it's a great complement to that fish. Also, we used some to make a sorrel pesto - milder, with a nice hint of licorice. but make it using less parmesan than you would with a sharper herb such as basil - you really want the flavor of the sorrel to come through and not overpower it with too much cheese.

I would like to fry things more. Not like deep fry, but just a little bit of a fry. But... I'm terrified of splattering oil. Even cooking bacon scares me because of the splatter. Help? Last time I tried to conquer frying and fried fish in a little bit of oil, when I was laying the fish (patted dry already) gently in the hot oil, a little bit splattered a tiny bit, and I yelped and dropped the fish into the pan instead of placing it gently, causing a much worse splatter than the gentle laying would have led to.

Two suggestions: make sure your food is bone-dry. Any water can cause a splatter. Also, even if you're shallow frying, I recommend a deep skillet to prevent oil from going everywhere. This is also important because when you put the food in the oil, the oil level goes up and you don't want the oil splashing over the sides. Credit: Archimedes.

Sorrel is quite sour, which I like. I love making it simply as a pasta sauce - the cream really goes well. I do it by eye, but this recipe sounds good. I had no idea sorrel sauce was a classic with salmon, but that might be because I'm a vegetarian.

It seems to be more popular in Britain - I'd recommend scoping out BBC Food's website, they probably have many recipes that use it.

I've been pondering getting a countertop toaster oven that also has bake/air fry/roast/etc capabilities for awhile now, being a single person who finds myself balking at heating and using my full oven just to roast a few servings of vegetables, or bake a few cookies. In the cooler months I alleviate this hesitation by making at least two things for every oven use (ie. Roasting a week worth of veg instead of just a few days, or baking then putting a pot of beans or casserole in after), but in the summer heat that is just an added deterrent. So, my questions are twofold: 1. Is this really a worthwhile added appliance, if I already have a microwave, traditional toaster, and full oven w.convection ability. 2. If yes, recommendations? Online it seems like Cuisinart is the go to roast/air fry/bake option, and the instapot company one the go to air fry main one, but the options are overwhelming.

Becky did a great piece on toaster ovens. Check it out here: Why you should use your toaster oven as more oven, less toaster I bought my very first one ever about a month ago. I love it. I use it to roast, bake, proof. They come with so many options. Try to think of what your needs really are before you decide.

Keep in mind an air fryer is basically a convection oven, too.

Olga & OP, can I crash your challah party on Friday?

Come one, come all! Maybe we could do a group chat or something? I would rather not do social media this week. Shoot me an email at olga.massov@washpost.com - and we can figure this out! 

Can I make vegetable stock with veggies that are slightly dodgy? Trying to not waste some carrots and celery that are beyond where I'd eat them separately, but aren't bad-bad and might be ok if cooked - but don't want to ruin the stock.

If by "slightly dodgy" vegetables you mean shriveled up or limp, then they're actually better for stock, as the vegetables' flavors are likely more concentrated. If by slightly dodgy you mean moldy, I'd say no. In cooking, as with dating, "slightly dodgy" can have many meanings and you use your best judgment.

Any ideas for a tub of red miso paste? Besides soup? I have a lot leftover from a recipe where we only needed a couple tablespoons. Thanks!

Glazes and marinades. Adding it to sauces for more umami. Taste it and use your imagination. It's hard to imagine anything it would hurt. Like I'll bet a miso glazed roast chicken or individual pieces would be delicious.

Carry the dressing in a separate container. Also, watch out for that broccoli. If it's the slightest bit overdone, especially overroasted, it'll taste horrible cold.

good point on broccoli. this should be blanched till al dente and shocked in ice water.

How delightful! I had a coronation chicken sandwich at a Baltimore cafe (British food) and adored it. And I always have chick-peas around.

My late father-in-law used to say, at the end of every meal, when looking at leftovers, "We'll have it for breakfast, with an egg on it." Funny when it came to Beef Stroganoff but hilarious about desserts.

I went fruit picking over the weekend. I’m planning on making a peach crisp, a blackberry pie and a plum upside down cake. I want to freeze them all. What’s the best way to do this? Do I bake the crisp and the pie partially? How do I make sure they don’t get freezery tasting? Didn’t you all have an article recently about freezing baked goods?

Here's what I would do:

- Freeze the totally baked plum upside down cake.

- Assemble the whole pie and then freeze, but don't bake. More tips from Cathy Barrow here.

- I worry about the crisp, especially if you bake it first. I think it might kinda ruin the topping. I suppose you could try assembling, freezing and then baking, as with the pie.

And, no, we didn't have an article on freezing baked goods, but our updated freezer graphic touched on them

Joe, I’ve made this several times recently. It’s just great. I use cherry tomatoes as I’m tired of dried but otherwise I stick to the recipe. It’s a winner!

This is the one you mean? Pinto Bean Tortilla Salad?

I joined the WashPost Voraciously FB group and was very glad to see Joe's list of cookbooks by POC. I'd been longing for The Cooking Gene for ages and I just ordered it.

To clarify, it's (an incomplete) list of Black cookbook authors & their books! Here's that list: 

Edna Lewis, “The Taste of Country Cooking”

Leah Chase, “The Dooky Chase Cookbook”

Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, “Vibration Cooking”

Carla Hall, “Carla Hall’s Soul Food”

Bryant Terry, “Vegetable Kingdom” and “Afro-Vegan”

Jenne Claiborne, “Sweet Potato Soul”

Toni Tipton-Martin, “Jubilee”

Alexander Smalls, “Meals, Music, and Muses”

Todd Richards, “Soul”

Pamela Strobel, “Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Cookbook”

Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams, “Soul Food Love”

Hi my question is for Anela Malik. Love the blog! What is your go to quarantine recipe thats good for leftovers? Thanks!!

Thanks so much! That's a tough question actually. My food at home tends to be super simple since I eat out a lot. I usually go for a curried lentil, as it keeps well and is easy to make a big batch. I like this Curried Red Lentils With Coconut Milk recipe, it's a staple!  

I tried to make pasta with lemon zest a few days ago and the zest flavor barely came through. Could it be the lemon wasn't fresh enough? Or what? I did have to use the big holes on the grater because the little holes weren't sharp enough.

You probably do need to use a smaller grater, preferably a microplane, and more lemon. Next time try doubling the amount of zest.

Yes! Two thumbs up!

Please recycle it. In PG and Montgomery County--https://www.wsscwater.com/customer-service/residential-tips/can-the-grease/recycling-cooking-grease.html In DC--https://dpw.dc.gov/service/household-hazardous-waste-e-cycling-document-shredding

Well done, yes.

Surely this means weekly, not monthly. $100 divided by 31 is just a bit more than $3 per day. What was she eating, nothing but oatmeal cooked with water?

Some folks actually can't pay a lot for groceries. Check out this article by Leanne Brown, who wrote a cookbook meant for folks on a SNAP budget--$4/day. 

How to eat on $4 a day, according to the author who wrote the book on SNAP cooking

One person. One head of cauliflower. What to do? A few ideas would be great since I don't want to be eating the same thing three meals a day for the next week. No food restrictions, except to note that cauliflower rice is SO NOT rice. Thank you!

My favorite was to eat is roasted--hot oven, roast it dry, add whole butter and baste at the end so that the butter browns. add hard boiled egg and parsley and tasteed bread crumbes for classic cauliflower Polonaise. I also love a cauliflower gratin. And it's even good boiled given a delicious Hollandaise sauce.

Anela, a lot of my friends in Washington D.C. don't want to make the trek over to nearby Virginia where I live, despite the fact that there are SO many amazing restaurants in the area that are also black-owned! What spots and dishes could you recommend in the Northern VA-area that would make my friends from D.C. at least take the time to drive over to get take out from there?

They're missing out. Northern Virginia has lots of great options. For Black-owned in the area I'd recommend Hawwi Ethiopian in Alexandria (they have the sweetest owners and the food is fabulous) or The Rub (great fried chicken sandwiches in Alexandria). Both remain open for carryout to my knowledge, and I believe The Rub also delivers. 

We don't even have central A/C, so between now and the imminent non-stop onslaught of summer heat, on less-hot days we've been cooking large batches of foods for freezing. In particular, lasagna (which after it's baked and refrigerated, we cut into serving-size pieces, then freeze), and the Post's great English muffin recipe, for freezing, then future toasting (although we use only unbleached bread flour). 

Adding one more idea to the no AC cooking! Check out this list of gazpachos: 

Sip your way through summer with these 5 refreshing gazpacho recipes

Thanks for recommending the English muffin recipe. :)

Break it into thirds for different purposes. I like it raw for dips like hummus or ranch dressing. Use another third to roast, then make the Post's (I think it's in Recipe Finder) Tandoori Cauliflower, which is good warm or cold.

I found an unopened bar of Cadbury's dairy milk chocolate while foraging in the kitchen cabinets. It's marked BB 05 2016. If I open it and it looks and smells all right, is it risky to eat it? I am impressed I left chocolate uneaten so long but don't want to top off that minor "achievement" with digestive problems.

Nah, you'll be fine. Definitely won't make you sick. You may open it to find it has "bloomed," which is the fat or sugar coming to the top. Again, won't hurt you. I do also find that old chocolate can taste a little stale-ish, but if you find that's the case, you can use it for baking, or making ice cream.

I've had many compliments on this simple version: 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk 3 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips 1 T. extract (vanilla, mint, almond, raspberry work well) cocoa powder, for dusting Mix milk and chocolate pieces in a shallow microwave safe dish. Microwave on High for 3 minutes. Stir to combine, and add the extract, also stirring well. Refrigerate 1-2 hours until chocolate reaches a doughlike consistency. Use teaspoon or melon baller to scoop enough to make 1" balls. Roll each ball in cocoa powder. Makes 3 dozen. Store at room temperature in a cookie tin.

Thanks for sharing!

Thanks for taking my question! But, uh, neither your answers and the article addressed #2- recommendations on which? If you don't want to plug a particular one, would you mind sharing what you have & if there are any big plusses &/or drawbacks you've found? Thanks again :)

I have a Breville. I can't recommend a particular brand because I have not done my due diligence on that. You could check out America's Test Kitchen. They test lots of products.

Well, I don't think any of us have one with an air fryer, and Ann and I don't necessarily think it's a must-have. Does anyone have one they like?

I don't have the ATK rankings at my fingertips, but I think Breville might have been up there.

How did you get involved in the DC Food scene? Appreciate all your work!

Thanks so much! I moved to DC for graduate school about six years ago and got a job working at a restaurant in Dupont Circle as a server to help pay the bills. I'd worked in the industry during my undergraduate studies as well, but that was my first exposure to the DC "scene". Having moved to DC from Arizona, I really fell in love with how diverse and vibrant the food culture is here. After that I never looked back! 

How he doing these days? If I had to guess, he and his brethren have been busy feeding the hungry resourcefully.

They are, as well as frontline workers. Check him out on Instagram, he's very active there.

Yes, I used a regular muffin tin (two, actually so I didn't have popovers in adjacent spots) and preheated them. The eggs weren't large, but I weighed them on my scale so that I had the correct equivalent for the number of large eggs. I believe I did everything the recipe called for, except I used Jahrlesburg instead of gruyere and the starter is a whole wheat-based starter. I will try again, but without the cream (we're out). To be clear, not using the cream doesn't change the quantity of milk, right?

Correct, the cream won't change quantity of milk. The cheese shouldn't have changed the results... I'd try again. I'm a bit baffled and hope that your second attempt will be successful :)

Hey Anela! I want to try making fried chicken and waffles at home for Father's Day on June 21. My dad loves to garden and eating the fresh herbs and produce it produces. Do you have any recommended herbs, fruit or other creative ingredients that I could add to the recipe for the chicken and/or the waffles?

First of all, what a sweet idea. Also, thanks for asking as if you've read my blog you know I love fried chicken, both eating it and thinking about it in a more historical context.

 

Try mixing chopped fresh rosemary (or thyme) into the waffle batter, the flavor melds especially well when paired with something savory like fried chicken.

I've started throwing scraps into the freezer for making veggie stock but I'm not quite sure about including some things. What about cucumber peelings?

Probably fine!

For the person who doesn't want to use their office kitchen-- I would often take lunches consisting of noodles, cooked veggies, and tofu or tempeh, with some kind of bottled dressing added (usually Soyaki or spicy peanut dressing from Trader Joe's, which are convenient, but of course you could make your own). I like them at room temp, so I just let them sit in my office until lunchtime. Sometimes bring a boiled egg to add.

Smart.

I made this and it was excellent! In truth, I made my husband's with chicken (he doesn't really like beef) and mine with tofu as I'm veg. I used up a surfeit broccoli and was cracking.

Lovely, such a great and adaptable recipe from Ann.

Can the naan be cooked on a charcoal grill?

Yup! In the original recipe, Raghavan recommends putting a pizza stone or unglazed pottery tiles on the grill. "If it is a charcoal grill, build an intensely hot fire and allow the charcoal to turn ash-white and red-hot. The temperatures should hover between 600 and 700 degrees." Cook 2 to 3 minutes per side.

I make my own kefir so I always have a buttermilk substitute on hand. It's easy and healthful!

Nice!

Can you stand one more question about Dutch oven bread? Your overnight recipe calls for a 6 qt oven. I have another recipe, not overnight, that specifies a 5 1/2 qt. Both of my ovens are smaller than that and I’ve been halving but would like to do full size. I have neither the money nor the space for two more ovens but am considering one more. But how do I reconcile the size differential? When accommodating a recipe for bread do I go larger or smaller? Can I use a 5 1/2 qt for your overnight recipe? Or can I use a 6 for the recipe that wants 5 1/2?

These breads never fill up the entire oven in my experience, so going a little above or below should not be any problem. It may just affect the height one way or another. I think either of your scenarios is fine. I have a 5 1/2 quart at home and use it for basically everything, including bread. Plenty big.

I use my enameled cast-iron pots or casseroles for this, since it's easier to put one in the dishwasher than to scrub the stove afterward. After I made ghee in a skillet, I vowed to use only high-sided pots.

I would just say that I'd be careful about putting your enamaled cast iron in the dishwasher. You can dull the surface, for one. In a worse-case scenario, it gets knocked around or dropped and you chip the enamel.

I made a truly delicious quarantine dinner over the weekend by "mashing up" Joe's basic beans (defrosted a batch) and the sauce from Becky's chickpea curry, since I had some cilantro on the cusp of going bad. Seriously, it was SO GOOD, I can't wait to make it again. And it relies on a lot of pantry basics plus some frozen ginger I had on hand, so it's great for these days of limited shopping.

Sounds great, thanks!

I have a June which is large but fits on the end of my work table. I rarely use the big oven now except for cooking a whole pumpkin or heating up frozen pizza. It also has an air fry feature, but we actually missed the oil.

Here you go, OP.

Made the cookout buns yesterday knowing today would be too hot to cook inside. Made the new coleslaw recipe to go with it. Perfect timing. Just need a refrigerator dessert (minimal heat to the house) to go with it all. Maybe popsicles?

So glad you enjoyed Ellie Krieger's "upgraded" cole slaw. If anyone missed it, here's the recipe: New Classic Cole Slaw.

Good afternoon everyone,

Hope we were able to answer your question today in the chat. The only frustration is that we cannot get to everyone in this short hour.

Thanks to our guests Michael Ruhlman and Anela Malik for joining us today.

Take care and thanks again for joining us. We love chatting with you.


In This Chat
Ann Maloney
Ann Maloney is the Food team recipes editor.
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and author of "Cool Beans." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a staff reporter for Food and writes a weekly column on casual dining.
Tamar Haspel
Tamar Haspel, a freelance writer based in Cape Cod, has been writing about food and health for the better part of two decades. She writes The Post's Unearthed column.
Kari Sonde
Kari Sonde is the Food editorial aide.
Mary Beth Albright
Mary Beth Albright is the Host and Editor of Food Video at The Washington Post.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer at the Post.
Olga Massov
Massov is a Food team assignment editor.
Michael Ruhlman
Michael Ruhlman is the author of many books about food and cooking. He most recently wrote about substitutions for The PosT.
Anela Malik
Anela Malik is a food blogger and advocate who focuses on highlighting the work of minorities in food through her blog Feed the Malik.
Charlotte Druckman
Charlotte Druckman is an author, journalist and food writer in New York City. She conceived and edited the anthology Women on Food, which will be out in October, and her second cookbook, Kitchen Remix, arrives in April, 2020.
Michael Ruhlman
Michael Ruhlman has written over two dozen books on food and cooking, and recently wrote about substitutions for the Post.
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