Free Range on Food: The Farming and Growing Issue

Jun 18, 2014

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

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat! What's on your stovetop, in your fridge or pantry, or bookmarked in a cookbook or other great recipe source (online or in print, cough-cough) that we might be able to help you with?

Hope you enjoyed today's section, which took a farming/growing theme, including Tim's spotlight of UDC's research farm, Becky's ride-along with the Arcadia Mobile Market crew, Tamar's take on the fight over organic standards, and Whitney Pipkin's profile of the Capital Area Food Bank's garden-instruction project. Plus, of course, tons of farm-fresh recipes to inspire you.

We've got the food bank's MJ Crom in the room to help answer questions, along with us regulars, so send us your comments and queries and we'll do our best to tackle them. Tamar is handling things from an airport lounge somewhere, and I believe we'll see Jim "Smoke Signals" Shahin at some point, too.

As always, we'll have incentives for you, in the form of not one but TWO giveaway books, for our two favorite chatters today. I'm keeping them a secret so you don't play to the topic too much, but, well, the topic shouldn't be too much of a surprise, now, should it?

Let's do this!


Is there a place to go for all the Plate Lab recipes? When I go here, I only see 11 recipes. Is that all there is or are the rest hiding somewhere? And if you're looking for a suggestion, could you do the grape soup from Graffiato? I'm not even sure if it's on the menu now, but I had it 2 (?) summers ago and it was wonderful. Soooo different than anything I've ever had. (Served cold) Thanks!

Yep,  you're as current as it gets. I think there have been 9 recipes thus far. (You'll want to make the most recent one from Editor Joe and chef Tony Chittum; that feta is so good.)


The Magazine feature just began in April; about one week per month there's a non-recipe Plate Lab feature that describes what goes into a classic preparation like banh mi. We'll check out the grape soup, thanks! 


First, what an awesome section this week—you folks have outdone yourselves! I look forward to reading this cover to cover over a wedge of icy cold watermelon when I get home, fingers wet and inky—it will be great. QUESTION: I’m wondering whether the freeze-stir-freeze technique for your strawberry-rhubarb sherbet would work for strawberry-buttermilk sherbet recipes I’ve seen, which all seem to call for an ice cream maker, which I don’t own. Does the dairy make this a no-go? The recipes are usually 2 c each buttermilk and strawberries and some sugar and a dash of vanilla or lemon. Would lack of an ice-cream maker result in food-borne illness? weird icy patches? Some other horror? thanks

Strawberry-Rhubarb Sherbet

No, I don't think you'll make yourself sick without an ice cream maker! The process described in the recipe you mention should work OK for your dairy sherbet. Here's another tactic. Same idea, though -- freeze, whip, freeze, whip, etc. Anyone have a favorite method for machine-free ice cream?

Any ideas? I prepared some following Joe's recipe in the Sunday mag for carrots with feta, which wasn't bad, but they have such a strong flavor, I'm not sure what to do with the rest.


How about turning them into quick pickles, like the kind used in this Asian slaw? (Photo above.) The recipe calls for red radishes, but you can substitute daikon for them. The pickled veggies can be used on so many things: banh mi sandwiches (or just about any sandwich, frankly), Asian-style tacos, salad garnishes, you name it.

Agreed!  I like this recipe for Vietnamese pickled carrots and daikon.  

I made the sauce for seafood newburg for father's day as I normally do. make a roux, temper egg yolks and then bring to a boil. Everything was fine at this point as the sauce simmered. I then added crab and lobster pieces along with the sherry, stirred and covered the pot. When I looked at it 3 minutes later, the sauce had completely curdled. What happened? Normally I use fake crab legs and the sauce has never curdled on me. any tips for the future?

It's hard to say from your description. Can you forward the recipe you used and we can take a look? From a review of several Lobster Newburg recipes, it looks to me like there is a specific order in which you build the sauce, with heavy cream coming at the end after all the other ingredients (roux, stock, sherry) have fully incorporated.

Heirloom tomato water? Pumpkin seed oil? Light colored soy sauce? Just what every pantry has. I'm sure the final product is delicious but that is something I will never know. If this is an example of the future it is not mine.

You are, of course, referring to Bryan Voltaggio's most recent entry in our Superfoods Chefs' Challenge series. I hear you; not every recipe we run will appeal to every cook. But this was a fun one, perhaps with an emphasis on "challenge." It was kinda cool to learn how to cook scallops with a blow torch, right?  Pumpkin seed oil's at Safeway; you should give it a try. And tomato water, not so hard to do. Just sayin'. 

In reference to last week's berry storage question, I have found that placing them in glass jars with tops preserves them for days longer than usual. It works for strawberries and raspberries. I haven't tried others. I have stored both supermarket and (more fragile) farmers market berries this way. I don't wash the first, just place them straight in. I opened a jar on Tuesday from last Thursday and they were in perfect shape.

Thanks for sharing. Don't they get stacked atop each other in the jar, tho? 

This weekend, I made the strawberry preserves... they are delicious! However, in the final stage, I burnt my oven pretty bad and was afraid I'd ruined the batch (I was able to salvage it). The directions did not say to stir after the fruit is added... I assumed this was so you could get a good foam that then faded away. But, on the high heat it burnt really quickly. Should I be stirring during this final stage? Any suggestions on how to not burn the preserves? Thank you!

Canning Class maven Cathy Barrow says stirring was in order. :( The directions should have said "stir constantly until the foam is nearly gone, at which point, the jam will be done." (We've corrected the recipe online.) As for that burnt stuff, fill the pot with a few inches of water, bring to a boil then use a wooden spatula or stiff silicone one to dislodge the bits till they release.    

My family and I went peach picking this past weekend (the weather was great and the kids had a blast). We are going to make a few pies and jam. As we are peeling all those peaches, is there anything we can do with the skins (and whatever sticks to the stone)? I'd love to find a way to use as much as I can.

You can make peach peel butter or jelly!  The key is simmering the skins until they disintegrate completely.  It tastes great, but takes 6-10 hours.  

As for the pits of cling peaches, I haven't found a good way to reclaim that pulp, which is why I usually look for freestone or semi-freestone varieties. 

Joined a pool this summer. While my kids might be happy with PBJ every day, I am not. What are your favorite go-to meals for light lunches/dinners on the go? Thinking noodle/rice salads and the like, but also would love ideas for various snackies.

My young son has just been diagnosed with a corn allergy. I've slowly been going through the pantry and refrigerator getting rid of the corn which is tricky. Anyway, does anyone out there have a source for commercially prepared jelly that's not prepared with corn syrup? Mail order is fine. I will NOT be making my own jelly!

There are sites out there that list corn syrup-free (or at least high fructose corn syrup) products, including jellies. Here's one. Do you have a favorite farmers market? Most have vendors that sell jellies and jams, and I doubt many of them use corn syrup if they're making jam the old-fashioned way, which is kind of the point for those folks. Also worth checking out natural-food stores such as Mom's and smaller shops such as Smucker Farms of Lancaster Co.

Do any of you have a tried-and-true recipe for salmon burgers? I've tried multiple recipes, and they always fall apart when I cook them. (The resulting hash always tastes great, but I'm determined to make an actual burger!)

How about these Salmon-Scallion Corn Cakes With Cucumber Salad from Stephanie Witt Sedgwick?

Salmon-Scallion Corn Cakes With Cucumber Salad

I need to make candied rose petals for a dessert, but I think most store bought varieties use icky pesticides that would render them inedible. Recipes I've seen called for organic roses. Do you guys know where I can buy some?

You can buy food-grade roses and rose petals online at The source claims the roses are 100 percent chemical-free.

Have you tried natural/organic food stores? Takoma Park Coop sells them in the bulk aisle. Also I'd think Middle Eastern markets would carry them, but perhaps already candied (score). 

People made ice cream for quite a long time before "ice-cream makers" were invented.

Right on.

In the same vein of those mentioned by Bonnie, I'm dying to try this recipe this summer while I'm at the pool: green mango, edamame, bok choy, Asian vinaigrette... yum. 

Report back! 

My husband, bless his heart, bought a GIANT bag of curly kale. I know that it wilts down quite a bit, but I'm overwhelmed by the amount of roughage in my fridge right now. I have cooked with the flat kale (dinosaur, I think?), but have never tackled the curly kind. I'm planning on making kale chips--are they any good? Would appreciate any and all cooking tips. I'm not a big salad fan, and most of the recipes I'm seeing online are salad-related.

We have SCADS of kale recipes in our Recipe Finder. The latest: the phenomenal Crispy Kale and Burrata With Tamarind Dressing that was a recent Plate Lab.

I'm a big salad fan, but only if I massage the kale first, which makes it get all silky and more pleasant to eat. I also like using a really pungent dressing on kale salads, because I think those do well to counteract (and complement) kale's bitter edge. So lots of garlic, citrus, sometimes chilies.

Besides that kale/burrata deliciousness, here are some other favorites:

Beet, Kale and Bulgur Soup

Balsamic Farro Salad With Tomatoes, Grilled Veggies and Kale

Animalistic Kale Salad

Elizabeth Petty's Kale Chips (these are the BEST)

Hey, Foodies! I hope you can help me with this one. My CSA delivery was full of the most amazing cucumbers. They must have a great crop this summer. The problem is I have about 40 of them, and can only use so many. My cucumber salad expertise is a bit limited, but I guess there are ways to give them some variety? How long should I expect to be able to keep them? Thanks.

How about cold cucumber and yogurt soup?  My favorite comes with dill, but you can also make it with mint and black pepper for variety.  


Farm- or garden-fresh cucumbers should last up to two weeks, if you store them in a humid environment below 55 degrees.  I keep mine in the crisper drawer in a perforated plastic bag.   

I planted a black currant bush in my yard last year, and this year it's gone crazy! I started picking them last night, and will have to pick again in a couple of days. I'm planning on making jam; any other suggestions on what I can do with these?

One of the worst aspects of the drive to get synthetics out of organic is the effect on animal welfare. Recently the USDA approved a vaccine against the PED virus that is killing millions of pigs in the US. However, organic swine farmers are forbidden from using this to prevent their animals from suffering and death beause the vaccine was made with biotechnology.

It's a good example.  And while I understand the impetus behind banning things like that, I have reservations about any system that puts a farmer's economic interests at odds with an animal's well-being.

Hello, Foodies! My partner and I are hosting a World Cup party for the USA and Portugal match. We were thinking of doing peri peri chicken (probably using thighs, in honor of Ronaldo!) with some kind of American picnic style cool salads or sides. We like the Nando's sauce you can buy, but do you have a good do it yourself recipe for peri peri? Ciao!

Well, his are certainly thighs that deserve honoring. Not peri-peri, per se, but check out a few of these:

Piri-Piri Sauce

Honey Garlic Habanero Sauce

Sweet Chili Sambal

Fat Shorty's Mumbo Sauce

I believe the Bonne Maman jellies are made with cane sugar - and what cute jars to reuse (for storing fresh berries??).

Yes, good call, thanks!

I have tried and failed to make falafel several times. I have used Joan Nathan's recipe most recently, which calls for soaked but not cooked chickpeas, thinking that would prevent the falling-apart problem I usually have. I'm trying to figure out what I'm doing wrong -- the patties fall completely apart when I attempt to fry them.

True falafel really does need to be made with soaked, not cooked, chickpeas. I HATE those recipes that use canned or cooked beans, because the result is just nothing like the falafel that I want. I've been playing around with falafel lately, actually, and will try to write a column about it soon. I do love it so.

In the meantime, I'm wondering if you're overprocessing the chickpeas/etc.? I haven't made Joan's recipe, but if the mixture is processed until really smooth, that can cause the patties to fall apart upon frying. I've used Kim O'Donnel's recipe to good effect; you might try it!

Could you use a crockpot for that? (And tell us where you went peach picking!)

I haven't, but I imagine it would work.  And I get peaches from New Morning Farm, which has farm stands in Tenleytown on Saturdays and Dupont on Sundays.  I haven't been peach-picking in a while! 

If the weather is nice, my family will be headed into the woods for our first camping trip of the summer. We will have access to a 2-burner propane stove and a cooler. I'm looking for some inspiration beyond last year's whiplash-inducing dinners of bulgur salad with feta, cukes, and sun-dried tomatoes (me) and Spam on a stick with instant mashed potatoes (my husband). Thanks.

I would think along the lines of one-pot cooking, something like this chili recipe, which calls for canned beans, canned tomatoes and no chopped vegetables..

What else can I add to roasted beets to make a nice cold salad?

A chiffonade of mint, torn parsley leaves, some toasted, slivered almonds, a crumbly fresh cheese and favorite vinaigrette. 

Yesterday I made soft baked chocolate chip almond breakfast cookies with substitution of sunflower seed butter instead of almond butter and raw sugar instead of agave. Today, the inside of the cookies are bright green. Do you know what happened?

Soft-Baked Chocolate Chip Almond Breakfast Cookies

Wow! Yeah, I definitely didn't have that problem. It seems your sunflower seed butter is the culprit. Sunflower seeds contain chlorophyll. Here's an explanation from SunButter:

When substituting SunButter in your existing recipe, you may have to reduce the baking soda/powder by approx. 1/3 to start.  The chlorogenic acid (chlorophyll) in sunflower seeds react with the baking soda/powder when baked causing the green color when the product cools down.  Depending on the recipe, even a splash of lemon juice could help.

Not sure I'd want to reduce the leavener in those cookies, though, since the dough's pretty dense. But if you don't mind green cookies, then it doesn't matter! How did they turn out otherwise? I'm curious about the raw sugar. I would have thought the agave or other liquid sweetener (I used honey) were important for keeping the dough together a little more.

Hello! I received whole hulless oats in my CSA shipment, and I'm unsure what to do with them. The farm website recommends putting them through a hand-cranked roller mill, which I do not have and don't want to invest in (it's about $100). Right now, they're sitting in the freezer (per the instructions on the package), but I don't want to forget about them. Any ideas?

I'm going to tackle this from the point of view of having never cooked them in my entire life, with the hope that someone else here will share their experience.  But grains aren't all that different from each other, and if you boil or steam them until they're soft (however long that takes), and then taste them, you'll know whether they taste more like barley or rice or farro.  Then treat them like that!  Helpful, eh?

I'm hosting a French-themed cocktail party for about 20 people, but I'm stumped what to serve for appetizers. I'd like them to be reasonably filling--as opposed to just little bites--and would really prefer not to need utensils. I'm thinking cheese plate (obv!), gougeres, haricot vert with aioli... What else?

Sounds like you're covered! But you might think about a pate or rillettes, a caramelized onion tart, maybe little stacks of Provencal-treated veg (tomato, eggplant). 

My neighbors have tons of fresh peas right now. If I want to freeze them, should I shell and blanch them, or can I just throw the pods in a freezer bag and shell when I am ready to use them?

You should definitely blanch before freezing!  They're much more likely to get freezer burn if you don't.  For peas with edible pods like snap peas or snow peas, you don't need to hull them - you can just cut off the ends, blanch, and freeze them whole.  

And when it's time to use them, have I got a recipe for you: Farfalle With Pea and Feta Pesto. (This grew out of a recipe in my last book for a minty pea/yogurt soup with a pea/feta toast.)

Get thee to Trader Joe's and start reading the labels. It won't work for everything, but their organic ketchup is corn syrup free (has cane sugar) and a number of their breads have only honey. The whole wheat pitas aren't sweetened at all. I would guess a few of their jams are without corn syrup. Not associated with the company, but I am trying to cut back on added sugar and simple carbs and I've started to go there as my first stop to find a better option than I can get in a regular supermarket.

Another good suggestion.

I have been making spring rolls using rice paper wrappers, which are very portable and great in hot weather. The only thing is that dipping sauce is key so you would have to take that in a jar or something.

Good idea. You could also put the peanut dipping sauce into a Thermos, or some other insulated container, and pour into a plastic bowl as needed.

Well I was seeing some no-freezer recipes that called for ROASTING strawberries first, which seems like strawberry murder and counter to trying to cool off in this heat, even if it has seemingly fantastic flavor. THANK YOU for the additional techniques. I'm a luddite slowsky at heart, so I look forward to trying this.

Let us know how it turns out!

It's usually all I buy, on account of being inexpensive and multipurpose. It braises well, can be chopped up and added to stir fries, risotto, and other multi-purpose dishes. I love chopping a bunch of it and using it in fried rice.

Yep, it's fantastic. All hail, kale!

I received a kohlrabi last night in my CSA and found this in your link today. Is this the work of fate? I believe it is. (Thanks, Rangers, for coming to my rescue again!)

You're welcome!!

Haspel wrote today about Whole Foods' new system to classify produce not as organic or conventional, but based on what's good for the environment as well as what's strictly organic. Does she think that this new system can overcome the rift between the organic farmers and the conventional, and make "best" food more affordable to the average family?

I can't answer for what WF's system will do to prices, because I don't have any details, and I'm not privy to important parts of their strategy.  However, one of the best reasons for a standard beyond organic is that some of the organic restrictions (like the ones Hepworth cited) drive up prices without adding benefits to farm or product.  The kind of standard I'd like to see might very well result in lower-priced produce with a seal of hybrid approval.

How would these differ from old-fashioned salmon croquettes? Is it that they're not fried?

That seems like a reasonable distinction!

I make both salmon and tuna burgers for grilling, in the food processor. Adding an egg white and a small amount of bread crumbs and a teeny splash of white wine keeps them from falling apart . I also add sweet onion or scallion, fresh ginger, lemon zest and cilantro, white pepper and salt and dress the buns with a little wasabi mayo (simply mayo mixed with wasabi paste or powder). Everyone in the family loves them.


You can sprout them (just google it).

Hi Food folks, it's Carolyn, National Chicken Cooking Contest article writer from a few years ago! Just wanted to say I really enjoyed hearing about the Arcadia Mobile Market and the goodness behind it. Just nice thing after nice thing to read, from the WIC mom that is just like the rest of us looking to get vegetables into our kids to the $20-but-free cookbook. Thanks for letting us know about it!

And thanks for your thanks! Those guys put in a lot of work -- and, boy, are they fast at setting up and breaking down the market.

I take it this means you put the jars in the refrigerator? Just making sure!

I decided to grow marjoram for the first time this year, and it's doing very well (better than the basil...). But it has a strong flavor that I'm not sure what to do with. Any suggestions (vegetarian) of how to best use it?

How about herb scones?  Here's a classic variety, or a cheddar and herb scone recipe.  Marjoram is also great in omelettes, or in sauces, like the one in this grilled eggplant recipe.

I got one of these as a birthday present, exciting! Aside from putting whipped cream on EVERYTHING, what else can I make? Are there approachable molecular gastronomy-type recipes that use this unit?

There sure are!

How about:

30-Second Chocolate Cake


Sparkling Grapes


Kim's recipe looks good. It's also vegan. I've made Joan Nathan's version (which I think includes eggs) and it didn't fall apart.

I was given two tins of Za'atar, the middle eastern spice. Found a lot or recipes on using it on flat bread and veggie's but like to try it on chicken, preferably a brick pressed grilled chicken. Any ideas or do's and don't? Thanks!

Basically, Za'atar is a dry rub. I have sprinkled it on grilled chicken wings, but not grilled an entire brick-pressed chicken. I think it should work about the same, which is to use a little olive oil on the meat so the Za'atar adheres, then add the spice onto the bird and grill. 

The only thing I might suggest is that you blend the Za'atar with the oil to incorporate the spice a little better. Other than that, I think you should be fine. 

I cut out the recipes from the food section I think I might like and then place them in a notebook. I was looking through that notebook for recipe x when I ran across your recipe for sage and mint lemonade. I happened to have lemons, fresh sage and fresh mint so I went ahead and made. That was an incredibly refreshing drink for this past weekend.

sage and mint lemonade

Ooh, thanks for the reminder. Once my sage and mint get a little bushier, I'm jumping on that!

My son is 10 months old and currently I make his food. He inhales french toast, bananas, those mushy foods, so I'd like to make some muffins or bread but wondered if you have any sugar substitutions I could try?


This walnut bread may be what you're looking for, although it's a little complicated with the required sponge starter. It includes honey instead of sugar.


Marjoram works pretty well as a substitute in recipes calling for fresh oregano, if you're looking at needing to use a lot of it.

Ok so I temp chicken and such religiously. I know that temp is a more reliable indicator of doneness than clear juices or no red or etc. But the other night, I had a confusing experience. I cooked a bunch of drumsticks, temped a sampling (all the largest, some of the smaller) - done. Put some aside for leftovers. Heat leftovers the next day and one of the drumsticks is bleeding? Closer inspection reveals a nick in the bone as the source of the bleeding. Microwaved further for about two and a half minutes total until it stopped bleeding (initially heating made it more apparent) So the question is, given that the temp was high enough to kill bacteria, and I know bones heat faster and retain heat (because temps too close to the bone aren't accurate) was it safe and done and just aesthetic problems? Do visual clues of underdone-ness trump accurate temp readings? even though temp readings trump visual clues of doneness?

Way above my pay grade. I've contacted the FSIS poultry hotline and an expert tells me 1) you shouldnt be seeing blood if you've cooked it to 165 degrees F and 2) the temperature ought to trump the visual. Best to send an e-mail to with your particulars as described above, and it will be parsed to a fine fairthewell. 

Forgive me, but the recipe for such was recycled. Once more please!

At your service!

Garlic Paste (Toum)

And in the spirit of the teach-a-man-t0-fish philosophies in the section today, here's how you can find it again. Go to our Recipe Finder (just repeat: and then type in the main search field "garlic paste." It's the top result.

If you chop it up, you can put it into your tomato-based meat pasta sauce about 20 minutes before the end of simmering. Don't overwhelm the other ingredients, and simmer it for long enough that most of the moisture it brings is steamed away.

I appreciated Tamar Haspel's article this morning; her Unearthed stories are always interesting. I can understand why some people--myself included--gravitate to organic products over synthetic. But the more I think about it, it doesn't seem like a meaningful distinction. Everything "synthetic" originated from materials available on our planet. They've been formulated, reduced, heated and combined--not unlike what happens in my kitchen. So why should I have a knee-jerk reaction against something that contains an ingredient that was developed by people? I think the focus should instead be on what causes harm. Harmful chemicals--be they synthetic or organic--should be avoided. Products that harm the environment or human health should be avoided. That's not the same sphere as what's synthetic. Radon gas, methane and snake venom are all naturally occurring substances, and none of them are going to do you any favors coursing through your body.

I think so, too (that's pretty obvious, I guess).  I want the same level of scrutiny that organic provides, but with a focus on efficacy and toxicity rather than origin.

This feels like a silly question, but does broccoli roast well? I tend to roast or grill most vegetables, but broccoli I pretty much always steam.


Honestly, it's my favorite way for most of the meatier brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts). 500 degrees, olive oil, salt, boom.

Section 6509(d)(1)(C) of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 authorizes the use of vaccinations on organic farm animals. The National Organic Program rules (Title 7) specifically allow for synthetic vaccines.

Thanks for that.  My understanding was that vaccines are allowed in some circumstances, but not in others, and I'll make sure to check on the pig virus. The issue of setting farmers' interests in opposition to animals' is an issue with antibiotics, as well.  A farmer can use them, but has to pull the animal out of the organic system.  If we could get re-entry after a particular time period, I think that might work better.

I use it in tomato-based pasta sauces instead or in addition to oregano. Do you make Bolognese sauce with crumbled baked veggie-burger instead of meat(s)? Yummm!

Thanks! I don't make Bolognese with mock meat, but I do make it with lentils! The marjoram would play well in this:

Lentil Quinoa Bolognese

did you use cream? milk? I have fits getting any sauce with milk to remain whole (and I'm a pretty accomplished cook), I've never had a problem with cream. If it's just the egg yolks I've had those break on me a few times. I'd bet the heat just got slightly too high. I've saved some curdled/broken sauces by cooking them down enough to where it was thick enough to not be obvious - they're still tasty.

You can often bring a broken cream sauce back to life by adding more fresh cream. To me, this is a mixed blessing; the added cream may dilute the flavors in the sauce while re-emulsifying the liquid.

I forgot to mention that I drizzle some grape seed oil on the outside of the burgers to keep them from sticking to the grill.

I don't have an actual recipe to offer, but when I make salmon burgers I finely chop (by hand, usually) fresh, skinned salmon, then mix it with an egg and some panko or matzoh meal until it's moderately stiff. I then form patties and place them on a plate in the fridge for an hour to set. They never fall apart when I cook them!

For the person who asked about whether to roast broccoli, please make Melissa Clark's broccoli recipe! It is a game changer-- I have probably made it 20 times to great success.

Tim--you are excused from knowing that honey is not recommended for babies under a year old, because of concerns about botulism and their underdeveloped immune systems. I'd suggest light molasses or agave syrup instead. Stevia and monkfruit sweeteners are both plant-derived but may be more refined than this mom feels comfortable with.

You are correct! The FDA doesn't recommend honey to infants under 12 months. My apologies. Please only use honey as a substitute for children ages 1 and above.

Tahini isn't available in my small local grocery store, so I ordered some online, having run across recipes calling for it that look interesting. I must not have paid very close attention, because what I got was a powder rather than a paste. I assume it's the paste that these recipes are calling for. I also assume I can use the powder, but I'm not sure if I should reconstitute it (with what, oil? water? in what proportions?) or just add two Tbsp or whatever of the powder to whatever I'm making. Can you explain what I ought to do with this jar of tahini powder?

So I guess what you've got there is basically ground sesame seeds, right? Add a mild-flavored oil until you've got the consistency you need/you're used to seeing in tahini paste. (I'm guessing a 2:1 ratio of powder to oil, but let me know.) You might like using the powder for stirring into soups or dips or cookie doughs where oil's not really wanted. 

1. Organic animals are required to be vaccinated 2. Vaccines are considered synthetics so have to be approved and some are currently approved. 3. Vaccines made with biotechnology are not approved to be used.

Thanks. I don't know about this particular vaccine, but I'll find out.

In the EU, farmers can treat a sick animal with antibiotics or other necessary medications, wait and then let the animal back into organic production. In the US that animal is out of organic production forever. This has led to some sectors of the organic livestock industry having much higher death losses than conventional livestock.

That's my concern. Antibiotics in livestock are a problem, but when they're used to treat infection, they're essential.

I bought some at the farmers market. What do I do with it?

The recipe says "six sprigs of sage." Does that mean six leaves of sage? I'm not sure what a sprig would be -- it's obvious with herbs like thyme and rosemary.

I'm new to this recipe, but my guess - based on the way sage grows - is that a sprig is the equivalent of 5-8 leaves.  This lemonade looks crazy delicious - I can't wait to try it out!

Sprigs are those tiny branches off the stems where one or more small leaves might be clustered together.  

You know, I forgot that I have a big old daikon too--I searched for recipes and couldn't find anything but pickles. Any meal-type recipes?

Here's one:

Roast Beef Banh Mi With Carrot, Daikon and Sriracha Aioli.

We're running short on time, but look for more possibilities here.

Am I hearing that I should absolutely use my za'atar on a smoked chicken this summer?


Found a tip on line that used 1/4 cup each sugar and salt to 4 cups water. I had to brine from morning to evening and the chops while wonderfuly juicy were just too salty. The original tip had brining limited to 2 hours. I'd like to put the chops in brine before work and have them ready to cook at dinner (that is 8-9 hrs). What would you do - cut the salt and sugar back to 1/8 cup each? (I'm good on all the extras of garlic, juniper berries etc to go in the brine)

A couple of suggestions, depending on what kind of salt you used: If you used regular table salt, try Kosher salt instead. One quarter cup of Kosher salt will be less per volume than table salt. Second suggestion: Cut that brine time closer to 2 to 3 hours.

I added cream to the roux prior to tempering the egg yolks. Cooking down the sauce more would have severly overcooked the crab and lobster. I will remember that technique if I break other sauces or the sauce breaks before I add the seafood in the future.

Good luck. Wish I were in your kitchen, eating that Newburg with you.

I love Smucker's fruit sweetened! Can be found at most all groceries.

Bake chicken or thighs only with a za'atar coating, some onions silced, some lemons, and some pomegranate seeds. Or just coat and grill.

Just putting this bug in your Free Range ears....Top Tomato 2014. It's coming. Get busy with those recipes. 

Well, you've transferred us to a warmed serving dish and can serve us right away, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for all the great q's, and thanks to MJ, Tamar and Jim for helping us answer them!

Now for the giveaway books. The chatter who first wrote in about using diakon will get "The New Greenmarket Cookbook" by Gabrielle Langholtz. The one whose post was titled "Organic vs. synthetic" and argued against having a knee-jerk reaction against synthetic will get "A Farm Dies Once a Year," Arlo Crawford's great new memoir. Send your mailing info to, and she'll get you your books!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating, growing, harvesting -- and reading!

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: Unearthed columnist Tamar Haspel; M.J. Crom of the Capital Area Food Bank.
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