Free Range on Food: Nutella, chicken salad and more

Jun 04, 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!

We've got chocolate and hazelnuts on the brain, after Jim Webster's fun Nutella quest inspired us to gorge ourselves on the combination. What's your favorite way to get these flavors?

We also had Adrian "Soul Food Scholar" Miller's essay on African American chefs in the White House, and Dave McIntyre's piece on DC's latest master sommeliers.

Today, we have Webster joining us to weigh in on Nutella or anything else (the man knows his food), and Osteria Morini pastry chef Alex Levin (source of the delicious Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread recipe). So shoot them questions -- along with us regulars, of course.

We'll have a special prize for our favorite Nutella-y question today: TWO commercial chocolate-hazelnut spreads that you can use to host your own taste test! One imported, and one domestic, just like the Nutellas.

So let's do this! Ask away.

I was introduced to Nutella about 15 years ago in France. The stuff we have in the States is not only too sweet but has a "chewy" feel to it... I get people to bring me back the real stuff when they travel.

You definitely don't have to wait for your traveling friends to bring it back for you. The Italian Store in Arlington always has it, and it is often at A. Litteri near Union Market. Mark Furstenberg at Bread Furst in Van Ness also says he carries it. I'm sure there are several other retailers around with it, too.

If you search for Italian Nutella, you can find a bunch of online options as well...

Is it okay to substitute red peppers for green peppers in a recipe,because green doesn't agree with our digestive systems? I was thinking of making the recipe I saw in today's paper, Mexican Tomato Tart with Cumin Pastry. Thank you.

Mexican Tomato Tart With Cumin Pastry 

Red peppers are actually green peppers that have been given the chance to ripen. You can adjust your recipe but keep in mind that red peppers are also much sweeter, so the flavor of the tart will be different - perhaps in a nice way...

Alex is right: It will be a little sweeter, but that should be fine!

Another thought, something I almost did when adapting the recipe: Sub in poblano peppers for the green bells! Will have a little more of a kick.

why was there no taste test of, or recipes for, Nutella chicken salad? :-) (definitely kidding!)


Very excited to be gutting and rebuilding our kitchen. Purposely doing it in summer to take advantage of tons of fresh fruits and veggies while we'll have no kitchen. Other than salads and grilled stuff, please give us ideas for VERY limited prep space (card table), a VitaMix, microwave, crockpot, and grill. We will have a fridge. Many thanks!

For dessert, making a simple chocolate mousse requires no oven space and you can pair it with fresh berries, slices of peaches and whipped cream.

Do you mean equipmentwise, or recipewise? Re the former: Some kind of sink is important, or at least access to one that's a) in the vicinity of your workspace and b) large enough to handle kitchen stuff. And if you could rustle up an induction burner (and have pots that will cooperate with it) sounds like you're good to go. In fact, you might be better outfitted than a lot of apt kitchens! 


Re the latter: Think about cold soups and smoothies for that VitaMix, as well as sauces and dressings for your salads and grill marinades. 

My husband went to New Mexico, and didn't bring back any chiles. Is this grounds for divorce?

Only if they were in season. If not, give him a pass and tell him to plan his trips better next time.

Is this part of a recurring pattern? Did he travel to Vermont and not bring you back Grade A amber maple syrup? Did he travel to Spain and not  bring you back Iberico ham? Did he travel to France and not bring you back Valrhona chocolate? If so, ditch him. :)

Hi, Rangers! I bought two bread pans in North Carolina at my local Kroger from the "dollar days" bins @ $3 apiece, and they've helped me crank out many fine loaves in the intervening 25 years or so. But I need to replace them. Their nonstick coating, which has long been covered by the diamond-hard coating of many greasings. has started to come off and I don't want to eat that stuff. I don't even want to cook with potentially carcinogenic nonstick coatings any more. Any suggestions for good replacement pans? I bake both quick and yeast loaves. Thanks so much.

My favorite small store for baking tools, pots and pans in Washington DC is in Capitol Hill -- Hill's Kitchen -- they have everything. It's a small shop and the people who work there are incredibly helpful. 

I've liked these pans I've bought from King Arthur Flour.

You evil, evil people. I'm moving and just packed away the last of the cookware and have one half-jar of Nutella left and was going to just dig into it with a spoon - but no! Now I have to (have to, in the same of science!) borrow a friend's kitchen to try out some of those recipes. The salty chocolate thumbprints have become a Christmas-cookie staple, btw. Gah! What a fun read, especially comparing the imported and domestic versions. All of that taste-testing must have been just awful. ;-)

I've been accused of being a bad influence for a looooooong time.

I use a clay based bread pan. It works very well to keep the sides from getting overdone.

My wife purchase a lemon basil plant rather than regular basil plant. It is growing well in my garden. I pinched it off to increase branching and noticed the very strong lemon flavor. Do you have any recipe suggestions for how to use lemon basil. I have never used it before and don't want to waste it.

I LOVE lemon basil. My favorite thing to do with it is to combine it with peaches when I make peach jam. It would lend a nice note to other fruit jams, too: strawberry, nectarine, plum. But you could also just add it to fruit for a compote or sauce if you don't want to make jam.


Another thought: muddle it with sugar for a twist on a Mojito!

Over the past couple years, I cooked my way through Mario Batali's Babbo cookbook, and one of the best recipes in there was one of the best, and featured lemon basil prominently: Spaghetti With Sweet 100 Tomatoes. I could link a recipe, but basically you just make pasta and toss it with tiny tomatoes, oil, garlic, chives and lemon basil. So good.

If you need more details, a band called One Ring Zero set the recipe to music and made this video. Why, I don't know, but they did.

Please help! Sister is telling me I should remember a recipe for a strawberry custard pie. I do not. Do you have a delicious recipe to share?

We have a recipe for a Mixed Berry Custard Pie. Of course, you can just make yours of the single-berry variety.

Mixed Berry Custard Pie


Thank you for your suggestions re kohlrabi last week. I ended up making a simple potato/kohlrabi soup with a bit of milk. I had to puree the soup and then put it through a fine sieve. I finished the soup with a drizzle of chili oil and a few chopped chives. The kohlrabi added a nice sweetness to the soup! No longer a kohlrabi virgin ;)

Nice! Thanks for sharing.

I am not a fan of cayenne pepper although I like other kinds of heat (chipotle, Tabasco, red pepper flakes). Are various hot peppers interchangeable in recipes or are there certain things I should be aware of in making substitutions?

No, they're not interchangeable. Besides some flavor differences, different varieties of peppers have different levels of heat -- measured in Scoville units. Check out this listing from the obsessives over at; it even includes some sauces! But when it comes to fresh peppers, the Scoville thing is merely a guideline, because the plants can be more or less spicy based on how much sun/heat they got while growing, and other factors. So the best strategy is to taste as you go, to not be afraid of trial and error, and to realize that when you're scaling recipes, any chili peppers (or ingredients derived from them) don't scale up and down the same way as some other ingredients. One thing I do when dealing with fresh peppers: I scrape out the ribs (which hold the most heat) and the seeds (which have the next-highest concentration), and I reserve the seeds and add them back in, a little at a time, if I want to increase the heat later in the cooking.

I'm cooking a rack of lamb for friends, but the recipes I want to use are for leg of lamb. Does that matter? Do I need to find rack-specific recipes, or can I get away with swapping rack of lamb for leg of lamb?

It would be safe to transfer some of the flavors from one cut to the other -- say, if you like the spice combination you see in a recipe -- but not the cooking method. A leg is a large, muscle with a lot of connective tissue that requires a lot of cooking. A rack really needs little more than a sear and/or brief roast or grill.

No, consider it for a moment! A mole-style flavor and hazelnuts for crunch! Am I just delusional because I'm hungry, or is there something there?

Perhaps crazy like a fox! Test and report back. 

Speaking of Nutella, we're all jonesing today for Salty Chocolate Nutella Thumbprints. If you've never made them, I apologize for your upcoming addiction issues....

My daughter likes Nutella. however, she goes to a daycare in which all nuts, including hazelnuts, are banned. Are there any Nutella like spreads which are not made from nuts?

I don't know of any, because, well, nuts are kinda the whole point with these. (That and the chocolate.) Anything else would be called NOT-ella, right? But seriously, I wonder if you could use Alex's recipe and sub in something like toasted pumpkin seeds. Wouldn't be the same, but should taste good, I'd think -- and wouldn't be a nut, either.

i bought some chicken breasts on June 1, to cook that night. The "use by" date on the package was June 4; but, when I opened the package, there was an overwhelming sulfur/hard boiled egg smell. Needless to say, I threw the chicken away and called the store to let them know. Other than that, the chicken seemed fine. That was the right call, right? I hate to throw out good food. (FWIW, the store didn't seem surprised when I notified them and offered a full refund next time I shop)

A lot of times, the odor you smell when you crack open a package of meat from the supermarket is the gas they use as a preservative. It's off-putting, but harmless ... I guess. I don't want to preach, but it isn't a problem I've encountered since I started buying my meat exclusively from butchers and farmers markets. Yes, more expensive, but I've never thrown any away.

Could also be the liquid it's packaged with. Rinse off the chicken, pat dry. THEN smell. I've noticed the truly turned chicken has a distinct, persistent sour aroma. 

It's been very summery lately, you never know if that chicken got too hot in transit. Any chicken suspicious of foul play goes right in the trash for me. 

Fowl play?

That homemade recipe; did you compare it in your taste test? Is it worth the trouble and expense of making it from scratch?

It would not have been a fair fight. :)

It's really a lovely ganache, isn't it, chef Alex? We thought of dozens of ways to deploy it, then each of us graced with a little of the testing batches ended up using a spoon. Only. I am a hazelnut hound and the chef's recipe has a wonderfully present nut flavor. So if you like that sort of thing, then yes, it's worth your time -- and it's not like the recipe is a challenge in any respect. 

Am I too late? Are there any pick-your-own farms within half-hour or so of Arlington? I am craving homemade ice cream. Thank you!

Within 30 minutes of Arlington is going to be tough, so I'm coming up empty on that front. With an hour, though, you have at least a few options: Great Country Farms, Yankey Farms and Wegmeyer Farms. Call ahead the day before to make sure there will be some to pick, and show up as early in the morning as you can, as several have told me they're often "picked out" by 10:30 or 11.

Any reactions to this?

Yogurt vs. Twinkies? I don't think that's a fair comparison….

Full discretion…as a pastry chef, sugar is my friend…(and I also loved Twinkies as a kid..)

However, I don't like anything to be too sweet these days. Plain yogurt with a little honey and fresh fruit is actually a great break from the sugary options. 

Is there a DC health code rule that says that restaurants cannot serve raw beef when the food is being ordered for carry out? I got carry-out pho over the weekend and the restaurant put the thin slices of raw beef straight into the broth which resulted in the beef over-cooking and becoming tough. Pho shops in VA and MD typically wrap the raw beef in plastic and pack it with the noodles separate from the broth. I heat up the broth once I am home and the boiling broth cooks the beef once I assemble the bowl. Just wanted check to see if DC had some sort of rule that doesn't allow this or if the restaurant just needs to be told that they are ruining their food with this practice. Will ask for the beef on the side next time if there is no rule.

Yes, according to a D.C. Department of Health spokeswoman, meat must be cooked to a certain temperature if it's going to be sold from a restaurant. Beef, for example, must be cooked to 145 degrees or 155 degrees for ground beef. There are exceptions to this regulation, but only for sushi and steak tartare. Pho meat is not among the exceptions, the spokeswoman said.


"A lot of times our food safety folks have to use their judgment because there are new dishes coming out every day," the spokeswoman said.

My meat CSA gifted us with goat liver. I'm at a total loss what to do with it. Won't it be too strongly flavored for pate? Should I just feed it to my dog?

You are in the most awesome CSA I've ever heard of. You could make Dirty Rice, or cut some in to homemade sausage, or a gravy, or a long-simmered pasta sauce.

Recently, we chatted about my efforts to grow an herb garden, which is mostly going well. I can't keep up with the chervil and the thyme is growing nicely now. I'm still having trouble with basil though. Lately, some of the leaves are turning yellow. The spearmint is doing this too. These plants are both in their own pots, and I notice the soil seems to always be drier in their pots--even though I water them daily until the pots drip. Still learning how to do this, so if you have any thoughts I'd be much appreciative. Thanks.

Basil doesn't like to be TOO wet, nor too cold, nor too much shade, and things have been on the chilly side around here (are you around here?) until very recently. You should give it a little break from all the watering -- let the soil dry out a little more between waterings. (When you test it, are you poking a finger down several inches?) Basil also can sometimes use some nutrients, especially if it's gotten a lot of water in a container -- so you might consider a balanced fertilizer.

IS it getting many hours of sunlight? It wants that!

A couple of weeks ago the short rib grilling mentioned soaking wood chips/chunks for an hour before using. In Barton Seaver's book "Where There's Smoke" he says soaking the wood makes no difference and in fact all it does is lower the temperature of your fire. HIs advice then is don't soak the wood. Any thoughts on this opinion?

I was just having this conversation the other day with a backyard barbecuer. I mentioned the barbecue blogger Meathead Goldwyn, who's always a good read on the subject. He conducted a semi-scientific test on soaking apple wood, both chips and chunks, and concluded that the wood absorbs only small amounts of water.


What's more, Meathead argues, those soaked chips bring down the temperature of your fire, which is counter to what all pitmasters want: a steady, level firebox temperature.

I thought soaking them retards the chips from burning too quickly, no?

Bonnie's was my understanding, too -- that it helps them smoulder and smoke rather than catch fire and burn.

People use soaked wood for different reasons: to try to keep a lower, smoldering temperature or to create more smoke or to generate steam or to get more bang from your buck from each wood chip/chunk. But Meathead is arguing that, given how little water is absorbed, the whole notion is a myth. I'm not saying he's right or wrong. But that's his argument.

     There is a school of thought that because the chips are so thin and the fire so hot that, as you note, soaking wood chips is unnecessary and potentially even lowers the temp. 

     People I respect such as Barton Seaver hold to this view. At the same time, people I equally respect such as Stephen Raichlen continue to advise that you soak the chips. 

      I have not conducted a detailed scientific study on the question, but I have done some informal testing. For example, I have used soaked wood chips and dry chips in different cooks of the same food item to see if I could detect a difference in flavor of the food or in the cooking time. The biggest difference I noticed was that the dry chips seemed not to create as much initial smoke. Whether they provide an equal amount of smoke over the entirety of the cooking time, I can't say. But given that the early part of smoking something is when the food takes on the most smoke, I like the idea of that greater cloud at the start. Truth is, the food tasted pretty much the same whether the chips were soaked or not. 

In any event, there are a lot of variables beyond just soaking. Again, I have not made a determination one way or the other. But I have read a lot on the subject and I have played around it with it a bit, and I think that the difference is so slight that if you are a soaker, go ahead and soak. If you're not, don't.    

My husband's father will be in town Saturday night and wants to take us and our 11-year-old son out for a nice dinner. He has lived all over the world and isn't picky about cuisine. Likewise, our son has dined at many Michelin-starred restaurants around the world (yes, he's 11 - I think the best restaurant I had been to at his age was Chi Chi's!) We're all foodies, but we don't want to completely empty his wallet. We're willing to go early, and we would prefer somewhere that doesn't require us to scream across the table. By way of reference, Le Diplomate would be a great place for us, but forget trying to get a reservation at this point. Any other suggestions?

Gosh, this seems more like something for Tom's chat! Have a look at his spring dining guide for inspiration. One of my favorites, which is reasonably priced and has a wonderful atmosphere, is Bombay Club. Also in that same restaurant group, Ardeo.

Loved the Nutella story today. I'm not a big fan of Nutella--it's tasty, just not something I seek out. I really got into in 1998 when I studied abroad in London during college. It was all the rave there, and I hadn't heard of it yet at that time. People seem so devoted to it, but apart from spreading on toast, I don't see that it offers much versatility. Would it be good in ice cream? (not as a topping but as an ingredient).

Great in ice cream! Make sure you warm it up in the microwave first or blend in a bit more milk so that it turns into a hot fudge texture and temperature.

And Alex's version, if you made it a little thinner with more milk as instructed in the recipe, would be great ON ice cream, of course.

When you're without a sink, just do the dishes in the bathtub! (Not joking)

Of course!

I do not own tart pans and don't plan to buy any more equipment (did you ever see the Roz Chast cartoon about quazenbo pans?). Can I make this as a regular pie?


I've never regretted tossing something that I thought was off.....I'm pretty conservative when it comes to making such calls so I'm sure I've tossed a few things that were fine, but I'd much rather toss than regret keeping it :-)

Slice into a chiffonade and sprinkle into mixed green salad -- yummm!

OMG, now you've run a photo of those darned Nutella Thumbprints!! seriously, these are now my go-to Christmas cookie and birthday cookie for friends. How am I going to make it through the afternoon now?? Crave....

Clearly, you have to go home "sick."

What is a good, healthy lunch to bring on my airline trip (flying into Reagan National next Friday) and taking the Metro to Shady Grove. Must not have garlic and can be easily put into my carryon. Airport food isn't good and not willing to pay the airline for a piece of cheese and some yogurt. Thanks!

Bean burrito? Whole wheat pita pockets with hummus?

reading another chat and would like to try this at home.

Just wanted to say that that article made me smile. I thought I was the only one who took an idle bit of curiosity and turned it into a major project just because. (A while back I was reading a historical novel and thought the dialect sounded off for the setting, so I spent the rest of the weekend doing intensive research on historical linguistics. All that to find out that it looks like the author knew what she was doing after all. I bet Nutella tasting was more satisfying.)

I can't imagine I was the only one in on that taste test who ended up with a wee bit of a tummy ache after we finished. But you know what? A few days later I was back on the Nutella wagon.

Daily watering until the pot drips is bad for the plants. This drives out all the oxygen from the soil and the roots begin to rot. It is better to give the soil time to dry out partially before watering again. If the soil is dry after just one day, then the pot is too small for the plant and you should repot it in a larger pot.


I absolutely loved the Italy vs USA comparison, and I am envisioning a viewing of Breaking Away, perhaps Room With a View, some Fellini movie... over a batch of Nutella Thumbprints and Smitten Kitchen's Nutella poptarts, and maybe a jar of US Nutella and Italian Nutella. Everyone's invited of course! I think I have a bag of hazelnuts in the freezer, but I can't remember if I pressed them into service for granola. I'm at the office, and the suspense is killing me.

One of the things that inspired me to look into the Nutella differences was a homemade Nutella Pop-Tart -- whoops! I mean, chocolate-hazelnut toaster pastry -- that I had at Ted's Bulletin. That made me try to make my own, then I thought better of that and called in Chef Alex. His recipe is spectacular, and so much easier than I what I had been experimenting with. 

Hollins Farms is 1 hour away from Arlington and I have enjoyed picking strawberries there in the past. 

Thanks! It's right next to Sky Meadows State Park, which is definitely worth a visit if you're out that way. One of my favorite hikes.

Where can I buy some? I've looked in a couple kitchen supply stores and they don't carry it. Also, do you think it's worth having? I'd like it to roll out doughs.

Williams Sonoma carries it, definitely has it, and you always use a cloth napkin (assuming it is large enough.)

I think that would be awfully sweet, given that, as established today, Nutella is over half sugar--56.7% to be exact. Maybe instead, mix it with granola as a topping for a bowl of yogurt, perhaps with some fresh berries.

Using Nutella itself, yes. But you could work some of those same flavors into a chicken salad -- I think that was the idea. Obviously, in that case, the sugar would be cut way down, if not out.

Would that be Holy Molé?

One of my favorite nights in college was me, a stack of wedding magazines (I was single), Sabrina Goes to Rome on my tiny TV (with rabbit ears), a jar of Nutella, and a spoon.

I had forgotten about Nutella. 30 years ago, while studying in Toulouse, we would dip orange sections into a jar of it while on train rides. I think that I will go to the store today for some nostalgia.

How on earth does one forget about Nutella?!?! To me, that would be like, I don't know, forgetting to breathe.

Enjoy your nostalgia!

Thank you for the information. Also, that totally stinks. Guess I will be ordering the well done flank pho to-go from now on.

Personally, if I were you, I'd tell the restaurant to go ahead and give you the beef raw. Tell them that you know it's illegal, but you have no intention of reporting them to the city health department. Someone has to report the restaurant in order for investigators to knock on the door.

let's assume that I am going to be cooking breasts, not a whole chicken. My instinct is to saute after cutting it into chunks, but I could be convinced by the gurus to do something else. If I do saute, what is most important? And how do know if it is cooked through other than pulling out the biggest chunk and cutting it in half?

What do you plan to do with the chicken after it's cooked? For boneless-skinless ones, guess I'd remove tenderloins and excess fat,  then pound/do what was needed to make sure the chicken breasts were a uniform thickness before they hit the pan.  


Best ways to tell whether the chicken's cooked through: instant-read thermometer inserted into the center (165 degrees; everybody needs a some kind of kitchen thermometer and there are some inexpensive ones out there) and poking with the sharp tip of a knife to see whether juices run clear. You can also get a pretty good idea by testing the springiness of the meat by pressing your finger on top. 

Better yet, get some plain Greek yogurt, add some strawberries and nutella (just a bit) and you've got a fine dessert.

You might also see if you can get or borrow a camp stove, unless your grill is gas and has a burner. We went through a kitchen renovation just last summer and the stove was helpful to have for boiling water for pasta, etc.

Joe, what a pleasure it was to assist you when you were at the Green Festival on Sunday in DC. I had told everyone I was anxiously awaiting your arrival and true to form you did not disappoint with your dish. I guess I was so excited I forgot to take a picture with you (sigh) and I do have all of your books. Love the article on African American presidential cooks and I would love to see a menu of various foods they cooked that today would be deemed unhealthy.

How nice to hear from you. Glad you enjoyed the festival, and my demo/dish. And thanks for your help!

On Adrian Miller's piece, you'll have to keep up with his documentary plans -- I can't wait to see what he puts together!

Was requesting recipes, thanks! I have no room for an induction burner. House is a wee one in Arlington. The "sink" will be a utility tub (new)/hose outfit on the patio.

Burner's quite portable and doesn't take up much room; can be stashed vertically when not in use. Thought of another one: an electric tea kettle. But you want recipes! You could vacuum-seal all kinds of curries and stewy things and freeze them, then do the boil-in-bag thing.  Check out MAKE IT FREEZE IT TAKE IT options in our Recipe Finder. 

Seems like temperature abuse. There are a number of possible reasons including: 1. Grocery store left pallet on dock too long 2. Customer thought they wanted the package of chicken, walked around the store with the chicken in their cart and then the customer put the chicken back in the case. 3. Customer purchased the chicken and did not place it in a cooler after they left the grocery store.

Thanks, but I think for numbers 2 and 3, especially, those trips around the store (and home) would have to be awfully long to cause the chicken to go off. Really, would need to be more than 2 hours outside the 40-to-140-degree "danger zone." But it certainly could be that the refrigeration at the grocery store is already above 40 degrees...

I think you are incorrect on the use of gas as a preservative. The modified atmosphere pasckaging only uses gases with no smells. Usually it is nitrogen. One of the benefits of MAP is that it reduces odors, not increases them.

Well, that would be terrible news. Though it brings up an interesting point: I wonder if the off-smelling chicken was packaged in a wrapped styrofoam tray or in vacuum-sealed plastic wrap. I wonder if that matters. Joe, I have a story idea ...


My sister got married not too long ago. The hotel most of us stayed at was a funky place in a little town in the Catskills. She pointed out that one of the things that made it an excellently cool hotel was the fact that there were 6 different kinds of chocolate spread on the breakfast table.

And the name of this hotel is? Sounds like my kind of place.

I prefer Justin's chocolate hazelnut butter. Even comes in little to-go packs that are very handy. It has a lot less sugar (they claim) than regular Nutella, and it's very delicious.

Yeah, that was in the taste test. I'd never eat it instead of Nutella. But as a nut butter, yes, it was quite nice. Definitely tastes less decadent.

How is a dish with eggs vegetarian?

Because it's not vegan.

Thinly sliced apples, mascarpone, Nutella on whole wheat .... grill!

My children eat pancakes with Nutella every weekend.

Although I live in a 1 bedroom condo with an average size kitchen, I can't help but buy pretty bowls, dishes, etc! My latest purchase is a beautiful ceramic hand-painted Polish loaf "pan." Any ideas for a Polish recipe I can make in it?

In Woody Allen/Marshall McLuhan fashion, I happen to have Polish native and colleague Zofia Smardz right across from me. She suggests any kind of babka or dziadk would be dandy in there. 

A spoonful of nutella helps the medicine go down! My son was diagnosed with TB and had to take a nine month course of medication to pass all of his school forms. Can you imagine having to convince a 3 year old to take a tablet every morning for 9 months. I tried with OJ and jam, and nothing lasted longer than 3 days. Then I rediscovered nutella. It was my saving grace to get that kid to take his meds. So glad that is over!

Paging Mary Poppins!

Yes, I agree 100% with the camp stoves, but buy one, don't borrow because as a bonus, they can also be used when there is no power. We had shrimp scampi cleaning out the freezer during the week long power out last summer. Totally worth having.

I have done this more times than I care to count... I typically do almond butter (tiny glass pyrex) with multi grain crackers (in a Tupperware so they won't break), carrots, and apple slices (with lemon juice to stay fresh). I also find peanut butter and honey sandwiches hold up really well while traveling and don't need refrigeration.

Good ideas. I think the key is to have some protein in there.

This is my 4 year ol daughter's favorite food: 1 pound of crab 2 cups of cream 1 tbl butter 1 tbl flour 1 tsp salt black pepper and old bay to taste Place half the crab and the remaining ingredients in a blender. Liquify. The liquified crab forms much of the thickness. Place in a pot, add the remaining crab. Warm until just simmering. Add 3 tbl of sherry. serve.

I finally joined a CSA with a friend this past March and it's been great! However, as the summer months roll in, I'm looking for options outside of salads and roasting. I have occasional access to a grill (thanks, condo living). Before this, I'd either roast off veggies I wasn't sure of to make soups or add to salads, but now wondering how to use items. I think I will be throwing the bok choy into a stir fry, etc and so on...but any creative suggestions or directions?

Think about the broiler! When I lived in a condo and didn't have a grill, and didn't want to heat up the kitchen for too long, I'd get into broiling veggies because the heat comes and goes so much more quickly. You can even do a microwave/broiler combo, something I've done with things like broccoli and cauliflower that I usually would roast.

On a whim I picked up a jar of Trader Joe's Thai "Dry" Chili Paste. Now I'm not sure what to do with it, especially since it's relatively high calorie (so the suggestion to add olive oil and use it as a dip seems like too much of a splurge), and it should be used within 30 days of opening it. Yes, I can just open it and try it, but suggestions on favorite ways to use it (and how much to use) would be welcome.


I assume you have already seen this page on the 'net? It provides a list of recipes for that exact jar.


But given the ingredients (fried mushrooms, dried chilis, tamarind, coconut sugar, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves), you could the paste in this Thai-Inspired Slow-Cooker Tilapia. (Photo above.) Or just about any stir-fry.


Where does one find an unwaxed lemon? That Saffron Chicken, Lemon and Green Bean Salad looks great. I'm assuming standard grocery stores are out?

It's a good bet that organic lemons won't be unwaxed; ask your produce dept guy. The fruit cooks in hot water for almost an hour, so I think maybe wax would be rendered by that point anyway? 

If you are using the lemon peel, washing the fruit in very hot water 30 seconds should remove any wax (and other dirt) that is on the skin. If someone has a wax allergy, than you may want to consider other options.

I thought vegetarians ate, you know, vegetables. I need to get out more.

Yeah, you do. We eat vegetables, yes -- lots of them -- but some of us eat dairy and eggs, too. And grains, legumes, nuts, fruits...

Poach it - it'll be moist with a great texture. You can poach in some leftover wine perhaps and add herbs etc to mimic what you're using in the salad.

Homemade Belgian waffles, Nutella, crisp bacon and sometimes bananas.

speaking of herbs, what does one do with lemon balm, other than pinch it and sniff it and make tea? (hmm would it do anything for goat liver? that's quite the CSA adventure)

Lemon Balm is awesome! Thankfully not a controlled substance…infuse it into a neutral oil and use on poultry, salad dressings and fish.

Church Street produce in Chincoteague, VA has a yummy tomato pie. I've looked all over the internet for recipes, but nothing seems to match exactly. I'm going to give making one a whirl nonetheless, but thought I'd see if you had any recipes you love. (They are not willing to part with the recipe. I've asked.)

Oh, I'll put this tomato pie up against anybody's.  (Down, Bonnie. Not a competition; just an exhibition.)

Speaking of the red fruit, we'll be posting info soon about Top Tomato 2014!  #itsthemostwonderfultimeoftheyear

And if was working at the restaurant I would suspect the customer asking for raw meat was an undercover agent for the Health Department and still would not give them raw meat. This may be the most ridiculous nanny state law to date.

U.S. laws concerning raw and fermented foods are not always kind to those of us who like the stuff. Or swear by it.


As for the undercover agent thing, I would only suggest asking if you are a regular at the place and have developed a level of trust with the owner/employee. Otherwise, I think you're right: Why would they trust you?

I enjoyed the story on Nutella. We were in Paris a few weeks ago and stopped at a little creperie on the street. Every creperie had a huge jar of Nutella on their shelves. The fellow at the creperie said - in his broken English - that if they were to run out of Nutella in Paris, there would be anarchy. The crepes were yummy.

Thanks! Some of my first memories of Nutella involve crepes and strawberries. Alas, in Miami, not Paris. But still.

Nutella is truly my guilty pleasure! And speaking of which, I just want to say for the record that one reason that I really love this chat is because you're not food police and don't reject sweets and other extravagant foods just because they're not the healthiest choices around. We all need some pleasure in our lives!

My favorite thing to do at work is to send out a dessert storm to an unsuspecting person or group. Food police are not allowed on the property...

And thanks for the chat love!

My family is taking a down-and-back ride from DC to Apex, NC, for a memorial service next Saturday. We'd like to add a happy reason for the visit and want to stop for BBQ along the way. Delicious is important, and as long as the place is clean, looks don't matter a whit. Any suggestions, Mr. Shahin and gang? Many thanks.

The last time, I pointed the car south, I stopped at a joint called Alamo BBQ in Richmond, Va. It turned out to be a terrific stop, especially for pork ribs.

        I like Q Barbecue, a Richmond-area chain that competition champ and BBQ Pitmasters tv show judge Tuffy Stone owns and operates. I ate there a couple of months ago and was very happy with my meal. It's not some off-the-beaten-track dive or legendary gem, and, in fact, as a shiny newish restaurant with a certain degree of marketing behind it, Q is, in some ways, everything one typically avoids. But Tuffy Stone is more than a TV personality and competition guy. He is a true student of barbecue. His food is definitely worth a stop. 

      Buz and Ned's in Richmond is a longtime institution. I've had ups and downs there, but I think it, too, merits a visit. 

       Depending on your route, I really like Carolina Brothers in Ashburn, VA. Terrific pulled pork sandwich. 


Bonnie, did you mean to say organic lemons won't be WAXED, not UNWAXED?

:( They won't be waxed. Glad somebody's in my corner. 

Vegetarians 'don't eat anything where the animal died' - therefore they will eat animal byproducts like honey and dairy. Vegans also eschew anything made by an animal - including honey. I'm vegetarian not vegan. PSA - if you eat fish, please call yourself a pescatarian.

What do you all think is the best food there?

I would head straight to G sandwich, the stand operated by chef Mike Isabella's team. It's a ballpark spinoff of his terrific sandwich shop on 14th Street. Here's my $20 Diner review of G sandwich.

I told my husband he has you to thank for saving our marriage. :) I knew I could count on you guys. Good point, Tim. He's usually great about bringing back goodies from his trips.

We went several months with no kitchen when we renovated 8 1/2 years ago. Everything was cooked with a crockpot, microwave, and rice cooker. We used laundry tubs for the sink and an inexpensive backup refrigerator in the basement. In any case, if the OP has a microwave, this is a dish I came up with that was easy and delicious. I made it at least once weekly for probably 5 months: I seasoned skinless boneless chicken thighs with black pepper and cayenne, put them in a casserole dish and poured some soy sauce (tamari) over them.  I put some preroasted garlic cloves and some pickled sushi ginger around the chicken pieces and cooked, covered, on high for 6 minutes.  Then I turned the chicken over and cooked 6 more minutes.  At that point I put several handfuls of baby spinach over top of the chicken and returned it (covered) to the microwave and cooked 2-3 more minutes.  It was quite good, required hardly any prep, and the only cleanup required was for the casserole dish. On the preroasted garlic cloves:  This is an ingredient I would never have imagined buying prior to this renovation.  When I saw it at the store, I was intrigued enough to try it.  I found it worked better for quick preparations than did raw garlic.  It's nothing that even approximates real roasted garlic, but since it's parcooked, I found it produces a better flavor than starting from raw in a quick microwaved dish.

This is why we love our chatters. 

The first time I had Nutella was when I was shipped off to my German family in the 90s for six months to get to know the family and develop some connections to the homeland. It was a revelations to an eight-year-old. I never wanted anything else. Obsessed would have been an understatement. A year later, I came back to visit with my siblings and grandmother. When I politely declined Nutella on my morning brotchen, my teenage cousin gasped, put her hand to my forehead and loudly asked if I was sick. Whenever I eat it now, whether it's the domestic stuff or the hard-to-find European variety, I'm back in that kitchen eating breakfast.

I guess that woudl just be chocolate spread. I really like Le Pain Quotidien's dark chocolate one, but they have others as well.

Someone e-mailed me about those today. Will have to try them.

Indeed - it is a chocolate spread. And as Bonnie pointed out earlier, you can adapt my recipe to be a chocolate ganache spread by just removing the hazelnuts and increasing the milk slightly.

I hereby nominate "Holy Molé?" to win today's chat. Thanks for the laugh.

You're easy! (But it was funny...)


OP here - it was the organic chicken from Whole Foods - vacuum sealed in plastic.

hmmmm. that would eliminate my theory.

I usually just pour some dry cereal (honey nut cheerios are especially delicious), and take a spoonful of Nutella and dip it into the dry cereal and eat. I can't be bothered to do more.

The Catskills hotel with all the chocolate spreads and THE COOLEST hotel rooms EVER: The Roxbury.

OK, yes, this does look cool!

I know people use the tub for dishes, but we had so much trouble with it. There was no bath on our ground floor, so it required going up and down stairs with dirty/clean dishes, and there was just something.... icky ... about dishes in the bathroom. I would strongly recommend some kind of temporary sink, if possible, for your temporary kitchen. Sounds like you're on the right path and will avoid the eating out too much weight gain we had!

When my lemon balm grew like a weed, I made a huge batch of compound butter, froze it, and used it for delicious roasted chicken all winter.

In that great-sounding chicken salad recipe, is it really necessary to do all those things to the lemon? Would the recipe taste okay if you threw in some lemon zest? It would take a lot less time...

Chopped bits of mellowed lemon peel in this recipe aren't in the same ballpark as fresh lemon zest. They add texture and more subtle flavor. If you'd like to try the zest, though, we'd love to hear how it turns out. In truth, it's not much more of a fuss. You might end up with something new in your arsenal for other salads. I try not to steer you wrong! 

Perhaps slightly out of the way, but as a UNC grad, I can testify to Allen & Sons in Chapel Hill.

Please settle a debate that's been raging in my workplace this week. Are apricot skins edible? What about apricot seeds? Somebody is insisting that either the skin or the seeds contain cyanide.

there is an association between stone fruit pits and laetrile, which has something to do with cyanide. I don't think eating the pits is really an option, though, unless you have really strong jaws. The skins are harmless.

I can eat 5 apricots at a time. I never go for the pits and have no issue with the skins. More about not breaking a tooth...

But to answer - there has not been a reported incident of poisoning from stone fruit pits in over 30 years, and, in fact, a number of amarettos use the pits (which are quite sweet in parts of Europe) as the main flavoring.

I discovered that I quite like barley, but it needs to be eaten in small quantities. What would you suggest as a vegetarian accompaniment?

Take a look at these possibilities from our Recipe Finder.

Organic regulations specifically allow the use of waxes on produce. Examples of these waxes include carnauba and wood resin.

Okay, well then, a good vegetable scrub brush is the answer. That, plus elbow grease and the aforementioned hot water treatment, ought to make the wax disappear. 

Hi FRers. We're regular Nutella users (one of my sons has it with peanut butter on whole wheat bread for breakfast most mornings). One question about making it on your own. I'm a big fan of cashew nuts. Would they sub in well?

You can substitute any peeled nuts - almonds, pine nuts, cashews -- they will also taste amazing.

It's a good hour out of your way, but Parker's Barbecue in Wilson, NC has amazing Eastern NC-style (vinegar and red pepper, not sugary) pulled pork and fried chicken.

We just got a charcoal grill and my husband has requested our inaugural meal be grilled chicken breast and veggies. We then realized neither of us had ever grilled before and had always heard that grilled chicken breasts can be pretty tricky. Do you have any tips to make sure they don't end up rubbery? How about tips for grilling veggies? (We were thinking tomatoes, onions, and peppers).

       I like to marinate chicken breasts in olive oil and lemon juice. Not only does the marinade help with juiciness, I really like the lemon flavor. 

        As for grilling, I set up an indirect fire (coals only on one side). I place the breast directly over a medium-hot fire for a couple of minutes to crisp and slightly blacken the skin, then move it over to the cool side of the grill and close the lid. It doesn't take long to cook through, only about, say, 20 minutes. I then give it another minute over two over the fire.

        The USDA advises 165 degrees F for the internal temp. If you're not using a thermometer, the meat is ready when the juice runs clear. 

        Veggies generally cook fairly quickly. You can cook them directly on the grates or use a vegetable basket. Some people oil the grate, some the vegetable. I don't oil peppers or tomatoes, but I do oil onions. I generally grill all three over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes on each side. I often slice the onions about a half-inch thick, and cook the peppers whole to char on the outside. Hope that helps. Enjoy your new grill!

I tried a similar spread recipe and added a bit of hazelnut flavoring. Heaven. Just takes a couple of drops to wake it up.

Thanks for the homemade hazelnut spread recipe. I'm not particularly fond of Nutella because I'm not particularly fond of hazelnuts. But a pecan-chocolate spread has possibilities.

I need to add more protein to my diet and I don't eat red meat or poultry. Can you give me some easy ideas? Thanks?

Hi, I'm heading to Bonnaroo next week. Very excited but looking for a few substantial and healthy dishes I could take. We'll be camping (without a grill) and have cooler space but ice will be limited. Snacks are covered, but looking for something more meal-like. Pasta salad and PB&J is the only idea I have that could survive the trip and heat. Thanks for your help!

Cook beans and lentils, then bag 'em with herby dressings. You can work them into salads and pasta easily. Puree vegetables (and bag) for soups. 

Good friend of mine just lost his now retired top herding Border Collie. Need a recommendation for a single malt Scotch in $80 or so price range to give the old boy a proper toast.

Three words: Lagavulin 16 year

Might it be easier to put your veggies on shish kebab skewers to cook that way?

Shawafel, especially the fries.

I second Parker's.

For several years, Dean Gold had a dessert by this name on the menu at Dino. Several of my friends were addicted to it - and then he took it off the menu! One time when my friends were howling about its absence, a waiter confided that it was very easy to make - he said beat together equal parts Nutella and mascarpone cheese. Dino put macerated cherries in the bottom of the cup, but we never ate those anyway. I've not actually made this dessert, but it's back on the menu (I think) at Dino's Grotto and a terrific dessert if you like Nutella.

This may not be well known, but ... I sort of do like Nutella. And cherries. And mascarpone. So, yes, thanks for the heads-up.

This year, our oregano came back in full force. It's overflowing and getting very tall. Any suggestions on what to do with so much?


How about Basil-Oregano White and Black Bean Salad.


I would also crack open your nearest Italian cookbook.

Substituting minced preserved lemon, already on hand in the fridge, was my plan for this recipe.

In many cases these are packaged at the grocery stores. This type of wrapping is highly permeable to oxygen. Oxygen leaking into the package can lead to increased off odors due to oxidation.

Well, you've refrigerated us for an hour until we firmed up, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for all the great q's today, and thanks to Alex, Jim W. and Jim S. for helping us handle them!

Now for the giveaway: The two jars of chocolate/hazelnut spread will go to the chatter who is plotting a festival involving films and cookies and jars. Let us give you a head start: Send your mailing info to, and she'll get them to you!

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

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is editor of the Food section; joining us today are deputy editor Bonnie S. Benwick, staff writer Tim Carman, editorial aide Becky Krystal, Spirits columnist Carrie Allan, and Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin. Guests: Jim Webster, Washington Post multiplatform editor and Nutella obsessive; Alex Levin, pastry chef at Osteria Morini.
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