Free Range on Food: Amy Brandwein, cooking with old bread and more

Amy Brandwein's Pasta With Chickpeas (Ceci e Tria).
Jun 17, 2015

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

Good afternoon, Rangers!


The first day of summer is still four days away, but I (and many others) have already embraced the season. And why not? It already feels like mid-August out there. Summer, of course, means vacations, which explains why Joe won't join us today. And Joe's absence means Bonnie has an even heavier workload, so she's out today, too.


But not to fear. We have a terrific cast to answer your questions. First among them is Amy Brandwein, a chef who answers to no one now that she has opened Centrolina, her own restaurant and market in CityCenter DC. Read Maura Judkis's dandy profile of Amy and then send over your questions. Amy will tackle them all, including ones about her new place and (no doubt) her old boss, the legendary and controversial Roberto Donna.


We'll also have regular Food contributor Emily  C. Horton with us. She'll take your q's on how to take advantage of stale bread. Bars guru Fritz Hahn won't be joining us, but we can still talk about his "farm-to-glass" story about farms increasingly converting over to microbreweries.


And what else? We can chat about Ellie Krieger's clever idea for a lusty, but healthy, burger. Or the FDA's plan to ban trans-fats from the American food system. Or even the stupid new Pizza Hut monstrosity designed to help save the struggling chain.


We can also talk about the usual summer subjects: grilling/smoking with Jim Shahin or cooling, quenching  cocktails with M. Carrie Allan. So let's get this thing started!

I've been looking at this recipe. It calls for 1/4C of buttermilk, an ingredient I normally never use. I hate to buy a whole quart for such a small amount. Can I sub regular milk?

I think with milk you might miss out on the tanginess that buttermilk imparts. You can also make your own buttermilk by "clabbering" regular milk -- the ratio is 1 tbsp of lemon juice or white vinegar plus enough milk to get you 1 cup. Yogurt is another option. You can also buy buttermilk powder and reconstitute however much you need. That stuff lasts forever in the fridge. Or you could just get the buttermilk and treat your family to a nice breakfast of pancakes or waffles! Buttermilk keeps pretty well for a few weeks. Just shake it up if it separates.

Hi Amy and Rangers-- Loved the article! Even though you might have been a little older than some culinary school classmates, it's fantastic that you followed your heart and went to school, and delved into Italian food. When you're home, do you cook Italian? Revert to your Irish roots? Or, something else? Thanks!

I love to cook Italian at home, it's always something very simple. My favorite things to make are spaghetti cacio e pepe, which is just spaghetti, butter, cracked pepper and grated cheese. Or whole wheat pasta with anchovies, garlic and hot pepper. I also make really simple things like grilled steak, roasted potatoes and broccoli rabe.

How long are sauces and condiments safe to use after they've been opened and refrigerated? I opened a one pint glass jar of salsa verde green sauce made with tomatillos, cilantro, onion and salt in March and used about 1/4 cup. The use-by date on the bottle is late next year. It doesn't say anything like "after opening, use within a week" and it smells and looks okay. Does that mean it's still safe to use? How about ketchup and mayo and mustard and preserves like chutney and jam, and jars of other Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Indian sauces and rubs? Thanks for keeping us safe from gastric distress!

The shelf life of salsas drops considerably once you open it. The handy site, Shelf Life Advice, says it will last about a month after opening.


You can check out your other condiments at the same site!

I'm making chocolate-chip cookies for a special someone's birthday this week. All the recipes say that the dough needs to chill for 36 hours to get the best flavor. Is it ok if it chills for longer than that? Maybe 40 - 45 hours?

I think that would be fine! Here's one blogger's experiment on chilling cookie dough and another from the great folks at King Arthur Flour. I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the inimitable J. Kenji López-Alt's Food Lab piece on the science of the best chocolate chip cookies

Are carrot tops edible?

Yes! Use them like parsley or even beet greens. I could have sworn we had a recipe in our archives but I can't find it. I may have imagined it!

The Kitchn has five recipes on how to use carrot tops, including a tasty-sounding pesto.

Looking for some new ways to use radishes, preferably meat-free options. My husband loves them sliced and sauteed, but it's just not working for me and I have too many to keep putting into salads; please help!

Pickled radishes are fun. Boil 1/4 C  white wine vinegar  and 1/2 c. Water with 1 Tablespoon chopped shallot, 1 T. salt, 1/8 C sugar and 1 bay leaf. Submerge radishes for overnight and then put on ice to cool. May be fun in a cocktail!

I was recently reintroduced to rhubarb (as an adult) and am loving it! Any suggestions for recipes, not savory, that feature this gem without the masking it or making it play second fiddle to other fruits (like strawberry rhubarb anything--not that I don't love that, but I'm looking to find recipes that let rhubarb shine on its own). Thanks and I love that you do these chats!!

Well.... the rhubarb betty that appeared in this week's day-old bread story features rhubarb front and center. You can also make a great crisp using only rhubarb. Sweet-tart and wonderful.

Rhubarb Betty

RECIPE: Rhubarb Betty

Out on the west coast the DMV is the Department of Motor Vehicles where you get your license renewed. That is both my w(h)ine and cheese. Looks like a great line-up. Wish I was east coast this week. Beats the hell out of getting my drivers license renewed.;~) um, what does DMV stand for in this case?

Not sure what case you're talking about, but that's become an abbreviation for our area -- the District, Maryland and Virginia.

I finally got around to making that recipe, and it was amazing. I've sent it to friends and they loved it. The only thing is that using two cans of chipotle peppers was way too much. I used one can and it was just a gentle tingle, but my friend who added two was miserable. Otherwise, though, awesome meal.

Right on! Glad you found the right balance. It is an awesome recipe.

Spicy Chipotle Eggplant With Black Beans

ANSWER: Spicy Chipotle Eggplant With Black Beans

Do you have any advice for apartment dwellers given access to a grill on vacation? It seems every year I go to the beach, where we have a grill, I'm lost as to how best to use it -- and in particular when/whether to close the lid. Is grilling 101 for people like me worth a story in the food section?

      Here's a basic guide for those unfamiliar with using a grill. Fast cooking items, such as steaks, burgers, and hot dogs, grill with the lid off. They are going to cook at higher heat and in less than 10 minutes, generally. Longer-cooked items, such as ribs, cook with the lid on. They need to cook low and slow, and leaving the lid on will help regulate a fire at a low temp. Begin by cleaning the grates with a hard-bristle grill brush. Use a two-zone fire - coals on one side, none on the other - so that you can move food around as it cooks. Mainly, don't be afraid to experiment. Oh, and make sure you have long-handled tongs, a long-handled spatula, and that you have prepped beforehand - have a platter on a table ready, so that when you take your food off the grill, you have somewhere to put it and you're not wandering around searching for a place while the other food continues to cook (read: burns).

As for a BBQ 101 story, not a bad idea. Will put it into the maybe box for next spring. 

At Christmas-time I like to make chocolate covered cherries, which involves stem-on maraschino cherries, covered in a butter/powdered sugar mix and then dipped in chocolate. Inspired by all the fresh fruit in the stores right now, I was thinking of making my own maraschino cherries. However, all the recipes I can find say the cherries are mushier, albeit tastier, than the commercial variety. They're pretty much variations on sour cherries in maraschino liqueur. I don't know if a mushy cherry would work for my needs. Am I doomed to purchasing maraschino cherries? Thanks!

Do you need them to be crunchier? I've had homemade ones in chocolate and they tend to make a nice contrast between the chocolate and the moist, soft fruit inside. Todd Thrasher makes a recipe that is terrific for cocktail cherries, but they are somewhat softer than the commercial kind. I guess I would say that you should decide what the priority is for your needs -- I think the squishier ones (whether homemade or the expensive Luxardo variation) are really good, but I will admit to a sentimental soft spot for the neon red variation.

What do you see that the food industry will do? How many packaged products will be re-worked, taken out of production, etc? Does the ruling affect imported food products? What will consumers see over the next 3 years of implementation?

The industry has already been tackling the problem. According to Roberto A. Ferdman, most manufacturers have already converted to another kind of fat. Those that remain (frostings, biscuits, etc) shouldn't find it too hard to switch.


The import question is a good one. I'll have to look into it.

My CSA box is overflowing with delicious beets but I'm boycotting the oven when it gets super hot out. How to best cook them for salads, etc. without roasting?

Have you considered putting them on the grill? Place in aluminum foil with bay leaves and olive oil and grill over low heat for at least 1 hour depending on the size of the beets. You will have a smokey aroma and no heat a la cucina!

They can also be pretty delicious raw, sliced into julienne or into super-thin slices on a mandoline.

Your regulars at Alba miss you! Hasn't been the same since you've left!

Come visit me at Centrolina! Just down the street. 974 Palmer Alley, look for the blue signs... 

I never reconstitute it I just add it to the dry ingredients then use milk for liquid. Its awesome for waffles and biscuits.

Yup. The container typically instructs you to put the powder with dry and corresponding liquid with wet ingredients. But probably in this instance, it would all go in together.

The Mercato menu on your website lists pici as one of the fresh pasta offerings. I've visited the market twice and haven't seen it in the pasta case. Is the pici forthcoming? (Please say yes, as I am a huge pici fan and you can't find fresh pici anywhere!)

Ciao my fellow pici friend. I will have it for sale this Friday! Be sure to pick up some ragu or wild mushrooms. 

Hello! We've just made our first batch of homemade vanilla ice cream using Dorie Greenspan's recipe (yummy). I'm looking for a container to put the ice cream in after it is done churning. I don't want to keep it in the canister we made it in since that is so tall. Have you all found a great container or type of container that will work to store homemade ice cream? Thx!

I have two types of containers I use for my ice cream. One is an OXO LockTop. The other is a Sterlite Ultra-Seal. I like them both. Whatever you use, it's a good idea to put a sheet of parchment paper over the surface of the ice cream to ward off ice and freezer flavors.

Speaking of Dorie, I bet that ice cream would go great on top of her recipe from this week.

Mixed Berry Crisp

RECIPE: Mixed Berry Crisp

And also speaking of Dorie, don't forget she's hosting her own chat on Thursday at noon! An hour with Dorie!!! Don't miss it. Submit your questions now.

LIVE CHAT: Baking With Dorie Greenspan

I'm supposed to bring vegan brownies to a work function. Do you or the chatters have a reliable recipe or hints for adapting my standard recipe, which is vegan except for the eggs?

Anyone have a recipe? We have one in our database that's not quite a brownie but could work.

No-Bake Hemp Brownie Bites

RECIPE: No-Bake Hemp Brownie Bites

No specific recipe here, but I've often veganized desserts for my vegan spouse, and have usually had good results with the flaxseed substitute: 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal to 3 tablespoons water. Blend well, set aside for a few minutes, and then combine as you would eggs. This seems to work for anything cake-like.

My Portuguese-American family made authentic Azores Watercress Soup (basically fresh watercress, thin-sliced potatoes, onion, garlic, S&P to taste, and water), to which they added chunks of stale bread when serving. For Holy Ghost festas (which sometimes feed more than 1,000 people for free at two or three sittings!), crews make huge vats of Sopas (literally "soups") overnight, featuring donated beef and cabbage or kale (sometimes also boiled potatoes), that's scented with lots of fresh mint, then strained and poured into large bowls over chunks of stale bread for serving family-style at long tables. In the Azores these soups are often served with authentic local bread containing finely-ground cornmeal as well as wheat flour (it has a signature slightly gritty, sandy texture), although in the US one must usually settle for standard-issue French bread (hardly the end of the world, I confess).

Thanks for sharing! I love the sound of the watercress soup, as well as the addition of mint to the beef and greens soup.

While disappointed that you won't be featuring any risotto at your restaurant (it's a childhood comfort food for me), I'm happy to see that your menu will change often. I'd love to see some lesser known regional dishes at local Italian restaurants and hope that you'll include a few that I would love to see. Mostly I like the alpine and pre-alpine regional cooking (pizzoccheri, schiatt, canederli, polenta taragna, polenta concia, polenta e osei, etc.), though to combine with the article on leftover bread today, I'd love to see a well made version of papa e pomodoro or ribollita.

I love risotto, so you will see it at Centrolina. But I don't plan on offering every night. If you come in and don't see it on the menu, I may be able to cook it for you, just ask your server. You mentioned some of my favorite things, I happen to love pizzocheri, canederli & polenta, especially with osei. I spent a large part of my career cooking just these things and they have a special place in my heart. Simple, rustic, hearty food. My two other favorite things are ribollita & papa al pomodoro. You will see these often, but the papa al pomodoro will need to wait another month or so until tomatoes are really ripe and delicious. Otherwise, not worth it in my opinion. Looking forward to cooking for you! 

and how do you decide what to stock there? Is it open normal store hours or is it open as late as the restaurant is?

Hello, the market is currently open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. most days. In a week or so we are shifting hours to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. to accommodate early birds. To decide what I'd like to sell, I always pick items that I personally want to cook with or serve in the restaurant. That is extremely high quality natural ingredients. I also look for interesting things that are unique from Italy and are not commonly seen in US markets. 

taken over the minds of the press so much? I mean, I get that is it a very weird concept. I also don't see any point in having hot dogs inside a pizza crust. But I'm not sure that it is that much worse than the stuffed crust concept (especially since that one was certainly assisted by the USDA program that does research on how to put more dairy products in everything to prop up milk prices). But Jon Stewart had it on last night. You did a Post TV segment on it. I expect it will get the Jon Oliver treatment this Sunday. Is it the visuals? It does look very odd. Is it because it combines two out of the normal three or four options on kids menus? Is it because they are cocktail sized pigs in a blanket and that is just inherently funny?

It's not hard to figure out, right? The new Pizza Hut pie, circled with pigs in blankets, is the new Frankenstein's  monster. Everyone wants to stare and poke at the beast for a while. The fascination will die down in about. . . 3 . . .2. . . 1. . .


Here's the Post's hilarious video tasting, by the way.

Guilty. We'll probably keep thinking about covering these things because you all keep clicking on them! We've seen the numbers, and you can't deny 'em.

Signed, The Person Who Tried Every New Kind of Starbucks Frappuccino

Have you guys dabbled in molecular gastronomy? My husband and I recently took an intro to molecular gastronomy class at CulinAerie, and loved it. I'd like to get him a "starter kit" of sorts so we can start experimenting with food and cocktails at home. I see a lot of kits on Amazon, but I have no idea where to start. Thoughts?

Others may want to chime in on this one, but I got one of these kits for molecular mixology a while back. While I really enjoy playing with it, I found that (at least for me), some of these processes are more complex and require more knowledge than a kit immediately provides to an amateur. So I would say it may be worth the time if you have a lot of patience, but ... for example, I was making a spherified olive juice for a while, and just around the time I started to get the hang of the process, I ran out of the chemical in the kit that enabled it. It was a little frustrating! What I might recommend instead -- depending on your husband's skill level in the kitchen? -- is deciding on one or two processes/recipes he'd like to make and buy the ingredients for those so he can really nail them (and decide whether they're worth nailing!) before going for the whole kit and caboodle. Of course, that likely requires a little more research, and you may want to just keep it simple! 

I had the pleasure/frustration of reviewing "Modernist Cuisine at Home," since I'm sort of a closet Luddite with my old off-set smoker and my charcuterie fridge.


It's fun to play with, but it requires a lot of equipment and a lot of experimentation. In other words, you'll spend plenty of cash and time.

I'm going on a road trip and might do some camping. I am sure there will be no fires allowed. Any ideas for veggie filled one pot wonders for my small propane camp stove? I hope to hit local farmers and seafood markets on the way.

Well, my first thought, when you mentioned hitting seafood markets, was doing a shrimp boil with potatoes, corn (if you can get it already), and shrimp with their shells and all.

But on our cross-country drive a couple of years ago, we did a lot of camp cooking, which meant lots of tostada-like crisp tortillas heaped with avocado-tomato-herb salads and beans, and lentil-pasta soups--that time of year we were able to get and travel with peppers, onions, parsley, and the like, so that's what went in.

Have fun!

I got a carton of 14 yellow mangoes from an Asian grocery last week. I've frozen some, eaten some, given away some, and made lassis and mango sticky rice. I have 7 left, and vague plans to make mango salsa with some. Are there other (vegetarian) savory recipes I can use these in? They're all just ripe.

I'm thinking the stir-fry or curry treatment might be nice. These recipes have meat (I know chatters, so don't jump on me!!!) but they should both take well to a tofu or more veggie substitute.

Chicken Stir-Fry With Mango and Peanut Sauce

RECIPE: Chicken Stir-Fry With Mango and Peanut Sauce


Beef, Broccoli and Mango Stir-Fry

RECIPE: Beef, Broccoli and Mango Stir-Fry


RECIPE: Thai Curried Chicken With Coconut and Mango

Grate radishes (a food processor speeds the task), serve mounded on a large lettuce leaf or two, top with the best blue or Roquefort cheese dressing you can buy or make, then grind some coarse black pepper over the whole salad.

Sounds tasty!

My kid turns 1 at the end of the summer. I want to do a homemade cake or cupcakes for her party. Any ideas on what will really impress (taste wise- I don't care about making it look fancy) and be a fun flavor for a 1 one year? Only restriction is no nuts. I also want a chance to test the recipe beforehand.

You really can't do much better than Georgetown Cupcake's Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes. They won our Cupcake Wars, after all!

Georgetown Cupcake's Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

RECIPE: Georgetown Cupcake's Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

Ha, I have received a handful of emails from my security officer lately warning employees to stay away from energy bars with hemp seeds because they cause positive drug tests!


*not qualified to offer legal or medical advice*

Sounds like you just offered marijuana users the perfect excuse to explain away their habit.

Do you have a pressure cooker you could use in summer? I love to use cooked beets for homemade borscht, with lots of sour cream (yummm!).

I boiled my beets for salad this week, and I was just as pleased as if I had roasted them. It was easier to control their cooking time, since testing them with a fork was just lifting the lid instead of opening the oven, pulling out the tray and unwrapping them. Amy's suggestion of grilling them sounds good, but I don't have a grill, and I, perhaps like the chatter, wanted a simpler method that wouldn't heat up the house as much (our AC was down over the weekend).

Here's a fun way to use beets and look like a professional chef. Take a mandoline shave your beets super thin and either serve as carpaccio style with a orange vinaigrette or fold them like rosettes and serve with goat cheese or a simple salad. 

1½ cups flour

1 cup sugar

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

 ½ teaspoon salt

1 cup water

⅓ cup vegetable oil

1 Tablespoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Mix together and sift dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add liquids, beat until just combined. Pour into greased cakepan(s) or cupcake cups. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven until toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center. Cool on wire rack. Suitable for a wide variety of vegan toppings, e.g. sifted 10X (powdered) sugar, melted bitter-sweet or semisweet chocolate for coating, raspberry jelly, cherry-pie filling, and/or non-dairy whipped topping.

Thanks! There are plenty of recipes out on the Interwebs too -- I just haven't tried any of them.

I really enjoyed the profile of Amy Brandwein and have definitely added Centrolina to my list of places I'd like to have dinner, as it sounds fantastic. I can understand the pizza/risotto burnout--but as someone who loves both, I bet if she ever made them again they would be stellar, so here's hoping for a daily special sometime. What I can't understand--why discussing women in the restaurant business is still a "thing." I find it perplexing that this industry--which delivers such a creative, diverse product--is still saturated with such blatant sexism and backward thinking when it comes to gender in the workplace (I imagine there may be other "isms" at work too, but I've never worked in the industry). I recently saw some sort of list of the world's best (or maybe US best) chefs, and I was shocked at how overwhelmingly male it was. Didn't seem very 2015 to me. I'm glad things seem to be changing, but it's a change that's decades late compared to other industries.

I am not *retiring* from making risotto or pizza, it's just not going to be a centerpoint of the cooking at Centrolina. I'm sure I'll flip a pie at some point in the future and will do risotto as fall comes closer. As far as women in the industry, the sexism is not so blatant and so is harder to see or identify. But the best thing that happened to change this was exactly that Time magazine article that somehow omitted many great female Chefs from their feature. I mean seriously, Alice Water didn't make the list? It makes you scratch your head....

Hi! My sister is about to give birth to her third child; the others are ages 2 and 10. Her husband can't take time off work when the baby arrives, so she will have her hands full. Do you have any suggestions for make-ahead meals I can stock her freezer or pantry with when I visit? I'm trying to think outside of the casserole box... Thanks!

We have a whole collection of recipes devoted to this topic. Maybe you'll find something to like in there!

RECIPES: Make It, Freeze It, Take It

Interesting that the industry has already mostly converted. Do we know what they converted to? I hope we have an assurance that whatever it is isn't just as bad or worse than trans fat.

Here's a very scientific answer to your important question.

What is the best way (if any) to keep roasted peppers once the jar has been opened? Living by myself, I only use them a bit at a time; and most of the time I end up throwing out 3/4 of a jar that has gone moldy in the refrigerator. Hope you can give me some hints.

Well, put this in the things I didn't know. From one brand of peppers:

Mezzetta Roasted Bell Peppers are not pickled with vinegar as most of our other products, and we avoid using preservatives whenever possible, it will not have an extended shelf life once opened and refrigerated. We recommend that you use the peppers within seven days after opening or transfer them to a container for freezing. This information is provided on our labels.

So, yeah. Good to know since I just had the same thing happen to me. It might help to keep the peppers submerged too, but it sounds like freezing might be the way to go. Or just do your own as you need them. Broil or grill them on all sides until well charred. Put them in a bowl and cover with plastic or a plate to cool and help the steam loosen the skins. Then peel and voila!

Here's my favorite rhubarb recipe, with a wonderfully tender vanilla cake on top. I cut my 'barb small enough to make sure that it cooks thoroughly.

Thanks for sharing!

Might some of the campgrounds allow charcoal cooking on contained grills that are part of the campsite? If so, you could take along a bag of charcoal and some lighter fluid.

   Taking a bag of charcoal along is a fine idea. You might also wait to you get to the campsite, see if the campsite has charcoal grills and, if so, pick up a bag from a nearby store. Either way, forget the lighter fluid (smells bad, potentially dangerous, and unnecessary expenditure) and use a charcoal chimney instead. You simply crumple some newspaper in the bottom of it, add charcoal on top, light the paper, and, in about 20 minutes, you have a charcoal fire. The chimneys are available at hardware stores and cost about $15 and last for years.

Hi Amy, I have a bag of polenta in the cupboard that I would like to use in an Italian style for my vegetarian husband. I tried cooking polenta (similar to cream of wheat mixture), pooring into a pan and cooing, then cutting and making a napolean, but that didn't go over well. maybe the texture of the polenta cakes? any other ideas of how to use polenta please?

I don't think you should give up on your method of cooking polenta. It's one of the most famous ways to do it. I wouldn't recommend making a napoleon because it is hard to stack in that way, but you could do the same technique and put it in a baking pan to make a layered polenta dish, and bake in the oven. Or just cut the cooled polenta into whatever shape you like, dress with cooked vegetables such as chicory or mushrooms, a little butter, any soft melting cheese and/or parmesan and that's a delicious vegetarian meal! I think also polenta should be cooked with water and salt and not milk, which I see often. It ruins the firmness and texture and makes it nondescript and mushy. 

cupcakes. The adults at the party will love you, and the dark chocolate will show up very well in photos of your baby smearing stuff all over her head, but I doubt she will eat that much of it. (Yes, my sister-in-law made her spectacular chocolate cake for the first b-day party for both of her kids and neither one was all that interested in eating the chocolate). For a kid that young, I would try a mini-cheese cake. Closer to what they have been eating for most of the past year in both taste and color.

All right, well, that's one opinion. The little ones I know would definitely eat just about anything chocolate so... Up to you, chatter.

Two more to consider:

Best Buns Vanilla Cupcakes

RECIPE: Best Buns Vanilla Cupcakes


Josh Short's Bumblebee Cupcakes

RECIPE: Josh Short's Bumblebee Cupcakes

Add em to mashed potatoes for a bit of a pop. Is putting them in a stir fry too like sauteing? I like doing that.

I've also heard you can sub chia seeds + water for eggs. I think the ratio is 3 tbsp water to 1 tbsp chia seeds.

I'm more of a crisp than a betty person. how would I go about making a rhubarb crisp? How do I treat the rhubarb before topping with the crisp?

I'd toss with sugar, maybe a little thickener such as cornstarch or flour. You could use the topping from Dorie's Mixed Berry Crisp. Or here are recipes from Martha Stewart and Mark Bittman.

Unusual, bit it's Ottolenghi so probably good.

Nice! We are Ottolenghi fans too.

I love Ottolenghi recipes!

My concern about the trans fat ban is the depletion of the rain forest that the common replacement, palm oil, is causing. Palm oil production is the leading cause of deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia.

I bought the Modernist Cuisine at Home cookbook, read some Harold McGee and have an (unopened) molecular gastronomy kit in my pantry. It's an interesting study, but not really practical for everyday cooking. The one recipe I've adopted regularly is the mac & cheese, which uses sodium citrate to smooth out the melting cheese, requiring nothing more than cheese and water to make a sauce which is super smooth and very cheesy. My husband is a big fan of this style over the more traditional butter/flour/milk base version, which is never as smooth or as intensely cheesy.

Found my recipe for Tofu Brownies - for these to be truly vegan be sure you use vegan margarine. Ingredients

1 1/3 cup white all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup fat-free margarine

3/4 cup sugar

3 Tbsp canola oil

10 1/2 oz regular soft tofu

16 tsp Cocoa powder,

1/3 CUP cocoa powder (any brand)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup chopped walnuts


Sift together flour and baking soda. In a seperate bowl cream together margarine and sugar and oil and mix well. Add tofu to the margarine mixture and mix for 2 minutes.. Add cocoa powder (any brand) to tofu mixture and mix for 2 minutes. Ad vanilla and mix for 1 minute. Add the flour mixture to the tofu mixture and mix well, adding chopped nuts (any kind) at the end and stiring them in. Put into a greased 8x8 baking pan and bake at 450 degrees farenheit for 25-30 minutes. Brownies are done when a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool then cut into squares. Share with your friends and see their reactions when they find out there's tofu in there!

Thanks for your work to share this!

Toddlers often don't appreciate tangy desserts like cheesecake. I'd stick with plain chocolate or devil's food cake and chocolate frosting.


I have a toaster oven large enough to hold a quarter sheet pan. It's on my work table next to the windows. With just two of us, I can cook almost everything I would cook in the stove oven. This includes a chicken, pies, 9" one layer cakes.... The only things that won't work are bread and pizza. Maybe pizza would work if I bought the manufacturer's pizza stone. Makes for a cooler kitchen.

We no longer have any newspaper to use to start fires.

You can't exactly stuff your iPhone into a chimney starter, can you?

I used to make a ceviche-ish preparation of raw tuna and mangos marinated with coconut milk, lime juice, salt, and habanero pepper. It was super simple to whip up, just add everything to taste. The one downside is that at parties, people would think it was fruit salad. Apparently this was not always a pleasant surprise.

Ha, I bet not! It sounds great, though.

What is the postpoint code for today?

Umm, with our fearless leaders out, we are stumped. Stay tuned and we might be able to post it once we acquire that info! If I get it, I'll put it up here.

If you're at home, use junk mail! Kills two birds with one stone.

Salsa, large dice with red onions, avocados, cilantro, jalapeno or serrano pepper, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. Addictive.

Well, you've made us sweat once again with your terrific questions. But it's time for us to close the chat and cool off with something refreshing for lunch.


A big thanks to our guests: Chef Amy Brandwein and writer Emily Horton for their great answers. (Heck, thanks to our regulars and their great answers, too!)


The winners of this week's cookbooks (titles to be determined later) are: The chatter who plans to boycott the oven for awhile (a true hero of summer!) and the chatter who asked about camp cooking.


Winners, please send your names and contact information to our editorial aide Kara Elder at


And don't forget about Dorie Greenspan's chat on Thursday. Baking With Dorie Greesnspan starts at noon with the cookbook author and baking authority. You can send in your questions now!

Hi, all -- as promised, here's today's PostPoints code: FR8457. Thanks for your patience.

In This Chat
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is the Food section's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff writer and former Food section editorial aide.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Amy Brandwein
Amy Brandwein is the chef and owner of Centrolina Osteria and Market in CityCenterDC
Emily Horton
Emily Horton is a freelance writer living in Seattle.
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