The Washington Post

Free Range on Food: Lavender, food product trends, 'The Great British Baking Show' and more.

Jul 06, 2016

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! 

Hope you had a good holiday weekend and are enjoying this week's coverage, including Maura's look at an influential Whole Foods Market buyer's trip to the Summer Fancy Food Show (plus Maura's take on 8 trends she spotted there); Alex Witchel's profile of Maile Carpenter and her Food Network Magazine; Nancy Baggett's ode to cooking with lavender; and more.

We've got special guests today: Nancy Baggett, who can talk not just about lavender, but really anything kitchen-related, given her decades of great cookbook-writing work. And AnaMaria Friede, the Whole Foods buyer Maura wrote about, who can talk about any food-product trend you might imagine. 

We'll have giveaway books for our favorite chatters, as usual: "Dandelion & Quince" by Michelle McKenzie, source of this week's Weeknight Vegetarian recipe; and "Berries: The Complete Guide to Cooking With Power-Packed Berries" by Stephanie Pedersen, because, well, tis the season!

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR9607 . Remember, you'll record and enter it into the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

Let's do this!

What perfect timing for this subject! As I was walking in the park the other day with an old friend she mentioned discovering lavender as we heard the sprinklers whisper. I have been dreaming of a spark to motivate me out of my comfort shell in the kitchen, so maybe this is it! I have never tried it, but your article intrigues me. Should I start with your apricots recipe? Or so you have some other wonderful ideas? I can't wait to hear your suggestions and I what I.O.U for! Thanks!

If you want to get your feet wet, you could try one of the super-quick recipes in the sidebar of tips -- the lavender lemonade. So easy, and lemon and lavender always go together. Yes, the lavender peach or apricot recipe is also a fine place to start. The syrup that's left over is wonderful stirred into plain yogurt or drizzled over fresh strawberries--or into a summer beverage like sangria.

ARTICLE: How to choose and use lavender

ARTICLE: The herb you need to take a second look

Any reaction to this recent NEWSHOUR segment?

We're fans of Michael Twitty, who's making people aware of different chapters of American history. Your thoughts? 

 

ARTICLE His Paula Deen takedown went viral. But this food scholar isn't done yet.

I bought my first tomato of the season at the farmers market yesterday and sliced it up to eat as a snack in the evening. About halfway through, I bit down on something hard and pulled a piece of glass out of my mouth (it was a small but solid chunk). It seems very likely the tomato was the culprit - the plate was not the same material as the glass, but I was wondering if that's even possible: can glass grow within a tomato? I inspected the tomato before I bought it and there was nothing embedded in it from the outside. Just curious how common this is/if it's even possible!

Wow. I have no words! Ok, I have some words. I can't imagine the glass really came from the tomato, and think it must've otherwise made its way onto your plate somehow...

Do you think the contestants on these shows are primarily chosen for their cooking chops or because sure, maybe they can cook, but they'll be a hoot to watch because they're a bit wacky? Sometimes their dishes don't really seem that impressive (even taking into account the time pressure), but maybe it's just me! :) Thanks!

The production company that chooses contestants are looking for amateur bakers who are mostly passionate, from a variety of backgrounds and professions -- they may seem a bit like archetypes to us but I do feel they represent the baking community. This season's "back to basics," as we reported. In seasons past, we've been intimidated by entremets and towering showstoppers with multiple components. In this case, the goal might be to find folks who viewers can identify with, dontcha think? Baking under the show constraints is enough of a challenge, really. Or that's what past participants have told us.

ARTICLE 'The Great British Baking Show' recap, Ep. 1: Batter up

Hi Mr. Carman, I'm writing to inquire as to why DCity BBQ is not on your list of Top 10 Places to get Ribs/BBQ? 

Tim is traveling on assignment today, but he made his reasoning very clear in this accompanying piece.

I'll quote him to save you some time!

Last year, under pitmaster Rob Sonderman, DCity was the clear thoroughbred among the ponies. No more. Sonderman left in January to work on a still-unnamed barbecue restaurant with the co-founder and former chief executive of the fast- casual &pizza. In Sonderman's absence, DCity has taken a nose dive. I visited its pop-up three times. I was served barbecue twice; on the other visit, I left after 25 minutes when no one had approached my two-top, a breach of hospitality etiquette so blatant that I had to assume the patient had deeper, more critical maladies.

 

The barbecue confirmed it: It displayed problems on almost every point. The ribs were emaciated bones with barely any meat hanging on them, the kind of aggressively butchered "shiner" ribs that knowledgable pitmasters avoid. (But at least the bones were no longer cut into one-inch riblets, nearly impossible to eat, which was the case on an earlier trip.) The brisket was poorly smoked and sliced, its moist deckle section studded with stiff, under-rendered fat. Clearly whoever was working the cutting station didn't have a clue about how to slice the meat, let alone the knowledge about when brisket is good enough to pass along to customers - and when it should be dumped in the trash.

COLUMN: A good pitmaster is difficult to replace

The $20 Diner's 2016 guide to the best barbecue in the DC area

Thank you for the articles on lavender! I almost bought a potted plant last weekend (despite last year's disastrous attempt to grow my own), but shied away when I wasn't sure what variety it was. I've wanted to start cooking and baking with lavender for a while, so the info on where to find it might just be the kick in the pants I need! :)

If  you can find a lavender that says "angustifolia" anywhere on the label, that's the best for cooking. BTW, lavender is tricky to grow in our area. I know from my own efforts you must have a very well drained, non-clay soil, and full sun. If the soil is soggy at all, plant in a large pot instead in a light soil.  If you check with lavender and herb farms they'll have culinary varieties that are hardy in our area.

I love making ice creams. I tried a peanut butter n' chocolate ice cream where I put a swirl of PB in it and all was OK until I froze the batch. The PB in the ice cream was hard as a rock. Is there anything I should do/add to the PB to keep it softer after it's frozen? Sort of like fudge and caramel, which doesn't freeze into glass?

It really helps if you can fully incorporate the peanut butter into the base, while it's still warm and liquid.

That's how it's done with the Buckeye State from Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream. The recipe is perfect and one of my favorites (you can, of course, leave out the chocolate freckles if you just want the peanut butter ice cream). Here's a link to the recipe from local bloggers the Bitten Word.

I have recently gotten into making my own bread. I started with no-knead bread, but have progressed to sourdoughs, loafs, and more rustic boules. At this point, I feel like I could use some hands-on instruction. I have looked around, but can't seem to find any classes. Culinaerie has a no-knead class, but nothing else. Do you all know of anything? Thanks.

Feel free to browse are cooking class list (some of the classes are out of date at this point, but it can give you an idea of who teaches bread).

BROWSE: Cooking Class list

You could also try Knead & Know in Leesburg.

ARTICLE: Take bread classes through Knead and Know and bake baguettes like a pro

Out shopping a few weeks ago and came across a rare bourbon I'd been wanting. Store had one left, and it was in the window, which I'm guessing receives some fair amount of sun. I know wine is pretty sensitive to this, but are liquors? I can't imagine how they would be. I didn't buy it even though the proprietor, whom I have trusted with other purchases, but at the end of the day he's trying to sell product, said it's OK.

It kind of depends how long it's been there, but yes, over a long time in the sun, some color and flavors in spirits can degrade. They're generally not as sensitive as lower-proof things, but it can happen. If you're familiar with the bottle and the usual coloring of the spirit inside, you might have a good guess about whether it's been damaged or not, but if it's been there a while, you may have an argument for at least a wee discount!

What is the food pictured at the top of this article and can it be found at the Stars and Stripes Cafe at the National Museum of American History?  I always see loads of fun cooking demos from the museums, but why are they always in the middle of the workday? Some 9-5ers like to attend these demos too!

That would be a Dinner in Minutes recipe from a few years ago (so ahead of the trends, that column!): 

Creamy Eggs With Tomatoes and Peppers, Basque-Style

RECIPE: Creamy Eggs With Tomatoes and Peppers, Basque-Style

I hear you on not being able to make the day-time demos. Bummer. But, American History does offer after-hour (albeit ticketed) events. Next one is August 10.

I've mastered lavender lemonade, lavender baked goods and lavender in cocktails, mead or iced tea. But how can I use it in savory foods? I'm vegetarian. By the way, did you try Dogfish Head's lavender, marjoram and bay leaf beer? I found it a bit strong, with the herb and beer flavors overwhelming the lavender.

Lavender works with most creamy cheeses, nuts, and is just wonderful in sweet and sour vegetable dishes and homemade barbecue sauce. I roast cabbage and red onions in the barbecue sauce--both excellent. I suspect the stir-fried pork dish in the story could be made without the ham--maybe turn it into an egg fried rice? 

RECIPE: Quick Ham-Fried Rice With Lavender

Or try subbing in cubes of smoked tofu! I think that'd be great in that fried rice dish.

Reading the article with Maile Carpenter, I was wondering what she cooks at home and what her children eat. Do any of the rangers cook with/for children? Any tips on how to get toddlers to try/eat a wide array of foods?

I suggest dipping sauces. Try small carrots with ginger miso sauce carried at the Sushi venue at Whole Foods Market. Chicken fingers with sweet and sour sauce found in the Asian sets. Try honey with apples and nut butters for other fruits. Big arrange of other sauces and dips in the condiments section.

Hi, I was the one looking for clumping techniques and am happy to report your suggestion -- not stirring, just rotating the baking sheet -- worked like a charm. Happy clusters to all!

Thanks for reporting back! 

As a result of so much rain, I have a lot of basil and sage. I've been making a lot of Pesto lately. Can you recommend recipes for other uses of basil please?

Make basil/sage salt or basil sugar! For the salt, pulse a few large handfuls with 1/2 cup kosher salt in a food processor, then store in the fridge (I made some with last year's basil harvest and it's still good). Use it with eggs, potatoes and other veggies, salad dressings, you name it.

Or the basil sugar from this cake recipe is crazy good (and so is the cake, as it were).

Warm Parmesan Pound Cake With Whipped Mascarpone, Raspberries and Basil Sugar

RECIPE: Warm Parmesan Pound Cake With Whipped Mascarpone, Raspberries and Basil Sugar

Or a few more ideas: 

Basil-Cilantro Noodles

RECIPE: Basil-Cilantro Noodles

RECIPE: Sage, Fennel and Pernod Pasta

Or to really go through a lot at once, basil paste (which would also be tasty with a little sage tossed in):

Basil Paste

RECIPE: Basil Paste

I let some flat-leaf parsley and mint get a little (...or a lot) too long before trimming it, and both have some flowers now. What could I do with them? I have quite a bit of the flowering parsley, less of the mint.

The flowers of most herbs taste like the green parts so can be used the same way, but they are also pretty so I like to use them as garnishes.  Check to be sure they aren't tough--usually aren't-- and sprinkle the parsley  blooms over tabbouleh or any other salad or soup that includes parsley.  Mint blooms can likewise be used to garnish tabbouleh, fruit salads or any fruit dishes that have a mint component.  

Absolutely -- they're often really great. I wrote about this very thing this week. You could certainly add either or both to a dish like this one.

RECIPE: Caramelized Carrots, Labneh and Flowering Cilantro

WEEKNIGHT VEGETARIAN: A gardener's favorite ingredient: accidental flowers

 

Do's and don'ts of drinking at a bar! Do's and don'ts of dining! Get to know a ton of life details about your bartender, but don't think that you're friends. Be sure to tip a LOT. Don't get too caught up in your personal conversation because you'll make your server feel bad when s/he has to interrupt. The pressure! I'm starting to feel like I need to start carrying around a cheat sheet! It's not that I don't appreciate getting the word out about manners, and it appalls me to see restaurant workers mistreated, but at the end of the day, they're in the hospitality business, and I'm a customer purchasing goods and services. I was a server and have family in the business, so maybe it just chafes because my friends and I know how to act when we're in public and I believe that many of your readers do too. Also, I feel like I'm starting to see restaurant workers acting more entitled than their guests. Maybe you can just mix it up a little, perhaps by publishing one or two articles with do's and don'ts of being a good server or bartender?

I've seen a lot of icky customer behavior in bars over the years, so I think it's worth keeping these things in mind (and keeping them in mind may also get you better service). But I admit, I feel like I've seen SO many lectures via article and video on this topic at this point -- some are very funny, but they do have a cumulative effect of shaming customers. (I wrote about this last Thanksgiving, BTW.) Short version of these stories, for both bartender and customer: Do unto others etc. Right?

Yes -- and keep in mind that we have written PLENTY of rants about restaurants and staff. Tom had this one about what servers say that annoys customers, for starters. And we had a collection that included this about over-eager plate-clearers. (You'll see links to our whole collection at the top of that latter article, in a strip.)

Hi Food Gurus, thank you for taking my question! My husband started our DIY kitchen demolition/renovation this past weekend and as of now we have a room down to the studs. Our new fridge is plugged in, in our dining room. In our finished basement, the prior owners put in a mini-kitchen area with a mini-fridge, kitchen sink and countertop for prep space. We've got the rice cooker, slow cooker, toaster, and microwave and that's it. My husband anticipates being done in 6 weeks. We really don't want to eat out a lot (too expensive, too fattening, too much sodium, and you can't do it in pajamas ...) and prefer to cook ourselves. We were thinking we'd grill a lot this summer -- but can you suggest some No Oven recipes for me? To make it tougher for you, we're kosher, and eat mostly fish or vegetarian. Thank you!

Does your husband do side jobs? Sounds like you have a better setup than most who undergo such kitchen upgrades. You are lucky enough to be in salad days, with glorious produce from farmers markets. The vinaigrette from this simple Gem Wedge Salad is a multipurpose winner. Our annual No Cook issue's right around the corner, but till then these Recipe Finder options might suit:

Marinated Tuna With Mango, Apple and Lime

Grilled Antipasti

Madame SooHoo's Fish and Rice

Stuffed Grape Leaves

Black Bean Burgers (cast-iron skillet on the grill!)

Grilled Figs Packet (check out many other foil-packet cooking recipes too)

Green Bean and Scallion Torta (made in the slow cooker!)

Citrus-Lemon Grass Rice Pudding (ditto!)

 

"a pass-along readership of 13.5 million" - what does that mean?

Pass-along readers are those who didn't purchase the magazine themselves but read a copy they get elsewhere. It's a common piece of research that tries to gauge the influence and reach of a publication beyond just the sales and subscriptions.

ARTICLE: Ground beef, yes; sumac, no. This editor knows what food magazine readers want.

Very interesting article. I have always skipped over the magazine because I cannot stand the majority of shows on Food Network, but it sounds like I need to take a look after all. I stopped subscribing to Bon Appetit a couple of years ago when they seemed to shift focus to attract a younger, wealthier readership all living with 50 miles of NYC and need a good replacement.

I'm a little surprised that your recipe for the grilled cheese/panino recipe calls for Taleggio. It does melt well, but as a washed rind cheese it's rather pungent usually, and frequently soft enough to be spreadable with a knife. Usually when I see it used in it's melted form it's in a polenta or risotto dish, not somewhere it's expected to hold it's shape more or less. Your recipe calls for slicing it and I've rarely purchased Taleggio in the US or in Italy (I grew up there, in Lombardy, where Taleggio is made) that was firm enough to hold a slice shape. I guess what I'm asking, is there a type of Taleggio that you're using that perhaps I'm unfamiliar with? I know that there is Italian Fontina and Danish Fontina, for example, and they don't resemble each other at all. Perhaps there is firm, less stinky (in a good way) Taleggio?

Well, here's the thing. I love that cheese, and this sandwich doesn't spend much time in the panini press so I was looking for something really flavorful and already on its way toward soft. Chilled Taleggio can be sliced, for sure. Who cares if it squishes a bit? Feel freel to use whatever firmer cheese you'd like....this was just a suggestion. 

 

ARTICLE How to summer-ize grilled cheese: Go Indian

I've been putting powdered turmeric in eggs as they cook -- sunny-side, scrambled, whatever -- since the first time I tasted it at an ex-boyfriend's apartment over 40 years ago. That's a lot of turmeric! I heartily recommend it to any reader who thinks eggs are bland. Here's the thing: I still don't know if there's an optimal moment to add turmeric and I've never used it fresh. Help me?

I'll leave the question of timing to someone else, but I will say that you are VERY on-trend

You may also make tea out of turmeric. You can make your own or buy it ready to brew from Numi. You can find their 4 different varieties: Three roots, golden, amber and regular at Whole Foods Market. Also, a local brand Paromi offers a Turmeric tea flavor.

To use ground turmeric (and other ground spices), I usually do what Indian cooks do, and bloom the spice in oil at the very outset of cooking. You have to be careful not to burn it, of course, so watch the heat.

doesn't taste the way it smells? How is that even possible? I thought that most of what we taste (other than sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami) was derived from smell. Are there other herbs and spices that have this quality? Does it have something to do with how they react chemically with food?

Yes, you're on the right track--as soon as lavender or other herb combines with an ingredient it immediately  intermingles so the taste and smell are experienced together not lavender standing alone. Lavender has a lot of different aroma elements that are found in other ingredients--honey, citrus, and berries all have some of the same aromatic "terpenes" as lavender. Ginger, cardamom, allspice, coriander, and some other sweet spices share some elements with lavender, too--and when you taste and smell these pairings they are quite lovely and not like each on its own.  Hope this makes sense.

 

Have you checked over your dental work? Could it be a piece of a crown?

That was my thought!

Sometimes I'll buy berries (farmer's market or grocery store) and they'll end up being a little under-ripe or sour. I do try to sample them in advance, but I'm not always able to. Do you have any suggestions for what to do with them? I would hate to be wasteful.

I'd roast or cook over the stove with some sugar and vanilla for a quick jam or sauce to serve on yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes, etc.

I wholly support the use of flowering cilantro: while the market for it may be small, it's one baby step forward to the eradication of the herb.

You know what they say: Cilantro haters gonna cilantro-hate.

I started eating more tofu lately. I press it, bake it and use it mostly in stirfrys. I'd like to expand into other vegetarian protein sources. Are there certain cooking methods different types shine with? Also, for tempeh and seitan, do they come in different varieties or flavors? Any reading recommendations on how to cook them would be appreciated.

I'm a huge tempeh fan. For both it and seitan, what you're most commonly going to see in stores these days are products that are heavily flavored, so they're geared to more convenient-cooking situations. I prefer it to be unflavored so I can add what I want, and take it in so many different directions. There are sometimes locally made tempehs -- and I urge you to buy them when you see them -- but the most commonly available brand I tend to see is LightLife. Check out the piece I wrote about tempeh last year, which includes links to several great (IMHO) recipes, and the sidebar on cooking tips.

I have to confess, I have far less experience cooking seitan.

ARTICLE: Make 2015 the Year of Tempeh

SIDEBAR: Tips on cooking tempeh

I made the zucchini cheese muffins over the weekend. They turned out well, but I found them a little bland. Could I cook a chopped jalapeno in the oil in the recipe, let it cool, and add it to the batter? Or do you have another recommendation for adding a little spice? Hot sauce maybe?

https://img.washingtonpost.com/rf/image_600w/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2015/05/22/KidsPost/Images/kd-muffins_0021432310051.jpg

RECIPE: Zucchini Cheese Muffins

I think chopped jalapeno would be great. Just fold into the batter along with the cheddar and zucchini, I'd say. Not sure about hot sauce, but maybe some cayenne pepper? You could also experiment with a zestier cheese, like pepper Jack, or a blend of the two.

RECIPE Zucchini Cheese Muffins

They were built with kids in mind....I'd go ahead and toss in chopped fresh jalapeno or add ground cayenne pepper. You could use a Pepperjack cheese instead of sharp cheddar, maybe. 

Great article! Love it. Been sprinkling dried crushed buds on yogurtAlmost bought lavender bitters but was horrified by the $20.00 price for a very small bottle so found a recipe for DYI. Any experience at WaPo for DYI lavender bitters or suggestions? Recipe had rind of 1/2 orange, 5 cloves, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 2/3 cup Lavender in 8 oz vodka - leave for 2 weeks.

I've done a lavender limoncello and it worked  really well. Haven't tried bitters but the recipe you mention sounds really good. Lavender has a great affinity for orange zest, vanilla and spices like cloves.  I might use only a couple cloves and add a couple allspice berries -- otherwise the cloves may dominate too much.

In your conversations with her did you ask about her background? I am curious how someone gets into that line of work.

My retail experience started while I was finishing my MBA in Business and Marketing in Upstate New York. Worked on cross functional projects for a retailer in Buffalo where I gained most of my knowledge in operations, marketing, consumer insights and merchandising. Besides I follow food trends and work closely with vendor partners and international organizations in the USA, Europe and South America. These partnerships have allowed me to source and launch thousands of unique products from around the world. Enjoy mentoring local and small start-up businesses in all the logistics needed to develop and to bring products to market. 

When I look up a recipe on your recipe web site, I only can look at the first group in the search results and then if there are more I can't see them, they don't come up even if you click the "load more." Is it me or you? Very frustrating!!!

So frustrating. Yes, we are suffering a technical glitch affecting the load-more function that our people are trying to get fixed. But you know what? It'd be VERY helpful if you sent us an email to food@washpost.com, so we can forward it their way! Please?

Thanks so much for recapping this show! I was delighted to see how detailed it was, and having a pro baker along for the ride is a real bonus. Does anyone know whether the early seasons of this show, which haven't aired in America, will be available on DVD or streaming?

It appears that scofflaws have posted previous seasons on YouTube. If you're a Netflix (U.S.) subscriber, you can start a campaign for them to run more of the earlier seasons; some are there now. The BBC offers all kinds of GBBO-related DVDs available via video download and some on iTunes.

I'm with the poster who dropped Bon Appetit a few years ago. I did too after one issue was so over-designed that I couldn't read it. I figured they were trying to get rid of older subscribers for some reason, so I obliged them.

I enjoyed the article about Food Network Magazine and a behind-the-scenes look at it's editor and production. It made me think - I really enjoy behind-the-scenes looks at anything, and I am curious about how you put the Food Section together each week. When do you start planning for July articles? (Are you outside testing grilling recipes in March?) Do you sit around the table and pitch ideas to Joe and then he gives you the sign-off? Do you have debates about what is sophisticated enough for WaPo readers but not TOO sophisticated that nobody will make it? Do you have debates about headlines and what constitutes "click bait?"

We are constantly pitching ideas to Joe! We have a weekly brainstorming session as a group, where we talk about trends and things that we are seeing/eating. We also chat over the leftovers from the Food Lab - one of the best perks of working here, IMO. Some stories/issues are planned out months in advance; some (like my story about AnaMaria) are added to the lineup the week before. Headlines in print are written by editors, and headlines on the web are often workshopped by a large group from across the newsroom in Slack, our messaging system. 

I couldn't have said it better myself!

Can regular yeast be substituted when the recipe calls from rapid/instant yeast? In making your great bagel recipe, I had so-so results when using rapid rise yeast, but better results with regular yeast. Since it has to rise overnight, not clear to me that rapid rise yeast is as essential. Thanks!

Interesting! I always got good results with the rapid-rise, but the two types are pretty much interchangeable, adjusting, of course, for rising times. As you mention, though, with an overnight rise, not too much to worry about for this recipe.

https://img.washingtonpost.com/rf/image_600w/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2016/05/04/Food/Images/food_0121462393147.jpg

RECIPE: Best-of Bagels

This is hard to answer because it depends on the recipe. Rapid rise yeast not only can rise more quickly, but it is more tolerant of heat and cold--hotter water won't kill it and cold water won't either. Some slow rise recipes call for starting with cold water and rapid-rise yeast--not to rise fast but because the yeast can be "retarded" bu the cold and later come back to life when the dough warms up. (Retarding adds flavor in a complicated way--lets enzymes go to work.) I haven't made that bagel recipe but it sounds like either regular or fast rise will work well.

 

Want to enjoy dinner at the pool without ordering pizza (know burgers and hot dogs are an option). What are some suggestions that don't involve cheese and could be cooked on the grill, for example?

My sister-in-law swears by foil-packet dinners on the grill and for camping -- you know, throw in your choice of proteins, veggies and spices. We also did grilled fajitas at our beach house last week, which was a huge hit. Skewers of onions and peppers, a packet of mushrooms, chicken breasts, all coated in my propriety (ha) mix of spices (salt, cumin, ground chipotle, garlic powder, cayenne), which we mixed with oil.

I guess what I'm trying to make is a PB swirl ice cream, not a PB ice cream. Anything I can add to the PB to make it softer to freeze? Adding chemicals are OK. I'm into that.

I see. Hm. Not sure I have a great answer for you there, but maybe play around with corn syrup? It's often used in ice creams or sorbets to help keep things smooth and creamy and helps resist crystallization. (More on the science here from Serious Eats.)

I want to bring a potato salad that would be safe for an outdoor group picnic. I could do something like potatoes, oil and vinegar, but I'm wondering about the old southern version using boiled dressing. I've never had nor made this. Anyone have an opinion and/or a favorite recipe for this?

Hard to beat David Hagedorn's German-style potato salad, which I've made every year since the recipe ran in WaPoFood. But fyi, some mayos are made with olive oil and even the eggy ones most often contain pasteurized eggs and enough preservatives that you should not be afraid to use them. I think a boiled dressing you're asking about effectively does the same thing, eggwise (in heating the mixture to a certain temperature).

For my July 4th cookout, I grilled a pineapple for our dessert. I cut the pineapple into thick spears, basted with a mixture of lime juice, honey, and black pepper, and grilled the spears about 5 minutes on each side. It was really easy and it was a big hit. My son said, "I've never eaten hot pineapple before!"

Now  you're talking! 

Go to your favorite search engine, then type in the recipe name in quotes, and "Washington Post." Recipe should pop right up!

Even better: Type "site:washingtonpost.com NAME/SEARCH TERM" and Google searched JUST our site.

Once again, my custards didn't firm up once I put them in the refrigerator. My wife says I likely didn't cook them long enough and that I should try again by putting them back on the stove for several minutes and re-refrigerating them. What are the prospects of success for such a proposed attempt to salvage unfirm custard?

If your custard recipe had added-in flour or cornstarch for thickening and the finished dish thinned out it was almost certainly because of undercooking. Eggs have an enzyme that breaks down the thickening power of starch--unless they are actually boiled and this enzyme is destroyed. (The starch will keep them from curdling.) And even if your recipe had no starch at all, the thickening power of eggs increases with more cooking.  So.... your wife is probably right--cook 'em more next time. 

Hi, I have some questions about where to find things: When I was a kid around the 1970s, local grocery stores sometimes sold fresh peas and lima beans. I remember we thought it was a treat to be allowed to help mom by shelling them. Since I have been old enough to shop and cook on my own, I can't remember ever seeing fresh peas or lima beans in grocery stores, and I can't remember seeing either in the occasional farmer's markets I have been to either. Am I looking in the wrong places? Any idea where these can be found nowadays? I have a couple of recipes that call for (fresh) tart cherries or Montmorency cherries. I can't remember seeing these anywhere. Any idea where to find them around here as well? I have made one of the recipes with "regular" cherries and it was tasty, but am curious to try the genuine article. Thanks!

Where are you located? Sour cherries have been in DC-area farmers markets for a couple of weeks now, and I think we'll see them this weekend, too -- but maybe not much longer.

Bonnie wrote about a Baltimore farmers market vendor who sells fresh peas, in this roundup of things we like to buy at markets.

And as for lima beans and other shell beans, I can say that Garner's Produce, which sells at several area markets, often has them, perhaps a little later in the summer. I always scoop them up!

Color me previously uninformed, but I never realized there are different buyers for different regions of Whole Foods where goods such as bagged teas or packaged energy bars are concerned. Local yogurts, fruits, etc., of course, but I assumed most of the merchandise was the same at any WF in the country. What's your guess as to what percent of the total local WF stock you choose? Do you and the other regional buyers compare shopping lists and sometimes discover new marvels in each others' stores? Do they go to different food shows? Also I have to say, it seems somehow odd to see Kentucky and New Jersey grouped together. They strike me as immensely different regions.

 

Looking across the country about 10%-30% of the product mix comes from local suppliers. That depends on seasonality and the size of the stores. In the Mid-Atlantic region we host Local Summits where local suppliers have a chance to present their products prior to future store openings. We have found very unique and innovative products from these events. In some instances, we have partnered with these suppliers to develop exclusive products from Whole Foods. The local effort does not stop there. We coach the local suppliers and make sure they are successful in our stores. We start them in few stores in the region and as they become successful we expand distribution to more stores including other regions in the country. Local sourcing and supplier information is always shared with other Whole Foods Market buyers throughout the country..

I have three 32-oz tins of pure maple syrup that I just discovered in my pantry. Problem is that they have a BEST BY date of June 2009. I googled how long maple syrup lasts and results were confusing, especially reading that it was good indefinitely if stored in glass or plastic but NOT tin (if pure and stored properly). So what's different about tin?

This brings back memories of my family's annual trips to Canada. We'd always haul back gallon tins of maple syrup and my mom would stash them in the basement chest freezer, where, remarkably, the stuff wouldn't freeze. Tin can rust, though, or give off "off flavors" so that's why glass or plastic is better for the long term.

I sympathize with the other poster-- I love the PB swirl (especially in chocolate ice cream) and am not a fan of diluted PB-flavor ice cream. I bet if you mix the PB with a neutral, liquid oil or cream, like you would with a chocolate/fudge ganache/swirl, it will help it stay soft after freezing...

Definitely worth experimenting.

If you don't want to know who won one of the GBBS series, be careful when searching the BBC site for recipes. I know who won the current PBS series, darn it. BTW, I made one of the winner's recipes and it was very good.

Word. That's one reason why we've added a few bells and whistles to our recaps. Even when you know who won, though, isn't it fun to watch the play by play? 

Been making bagels for a decade, and other things that rise in the fridge. I've found that rapid rise doesn't work so well in the cold. So I use active for those recipes. Usually you can interchange them as long as you let the active yeast activate in liquid.

Thanks for your insight.

Ask any child whose parents are cooking broccoli or cauliflower for dinner, and trying to convince the child that crucifers don't taste like they smell! I refused to believe my parents for years because I thought my nose knew.

Ha! My kid HATES all kinds of them. Won't use them. Hates anything mayonnaise. Hates peanut sauce when I make spring rolls. only wants oil and vinegar on his salad. Eats raw veggies plain, certainly no ranch. He's 11.

We only got a week of them in Howard County, and the vendors say it was because of the late hard freeze.

Bummer! It's a pretty fleeting season in a normal year, but a week is tough, isn't it? Just shows you: When you see them, buy them! I made a sour cherry pie this weekend, using only half of what I bought, but I went ahead and pitted the other half and froze them with their juices for another day.

I have recently started eating curries when we're out, and love it. I found a few simple recipes to try at home, but they all just say "curry powder". Is there a specific brand I should be looking for, or how do I know which one to buy?

If you can, try several different curry powder blends from ethnic Indian grocery stores. Ask which brands they suggest--but stress that you want MILD as many will be too hot for most American taste buds.  It's also easy to doctor supermarket curry powder--try adding in some ground cardamon and/or allspice, or fennel seeds and some dried thyme.  These all add punch and you can fiddle until you get exactly to taste you like!

Where can I find these in the DC area? I've looked everywhere at countless olive bars! So far I can only find the tinned Goya brand at some supermarkets. But hoping I can find "fresher" at an olive bar. Any ideas?

Hmm. This might not work for you, but I highly recommend any- and everything from LaTienda.com. They sell imported-from-Spain olives stuffed w/anchovies, and I bet they're great.

 

AnaMaria, I too was at the Fancy Food Show. Everybody and their sister wants to get on Whole Foods Market shelves, but there is simply not enough shelve space for every single healthy and unique product. Can manufacturers stand out to WFM buyers like you by not only having a great products, but also supporting that product with a proactive consumer marketing & PR program? Any tips on how to stand out from a marketing perspective?

Product by itself does not sell on the shelf. We ask suppliers to first engage with our store teams who should be the advocates of the product. They need to be knowledgeable about the products we have on the shelf, which it is part of the customer service Whole Foods Market provides. In addition, demos are a great way to engage customers not only about the product but the story behind. We also ask suppliers to participate in other promo vehicles such as price discount on the shelves and deep promotions that could be featured on flyers. 

All these cheese heads keep claiming that that best way to store cheese is in some kind of waxy/paper cheese paper vs. plastic wrap. When I do that, my cheese dries out because I guess I don't eat it fast enough (i.e., a week). So I use plastic wrap all the time and it works fine, whether the cheese is eaten in one day or twenty. Am I missing something? Also, does blue cheese ever go bad? Is that even possible?

Cheese heads like their cheeses to breathe, and plastic directly on its surface doesn't allow for that. So you can learn how to wrap from a pro at the cheese counter, or at least FIRST wrap your cheeses in cheese paper or parchment and then store in a loose wrap of plastic or a zip-top bag that isn't sealed. And yessirree blue cheese can go bad. You'll know it by the extra funky smell

Are there food shows that are open to the general public? Preferably in DC or Metro-accessible.

Check out Emporiyum, coming back to DC this fall.

Count your blessings! Most parents would love for their kids NOT to eat nearly-empty-calorie rich dressings with their crudités.

Can I ask the Food gang and all the chatters how they personally get out of a food rut? My sister is going through a rough time, and she loves to cook, but with depression and other mounting problems, she is in a rut and I want to help. She can't think creatively, doesn't get excited about cooking, uses the same old ingredients. Looking to give her A BUNCH of different ways people get themselves out of being in a cooking rut. Might just help her turn the corner.

I look through so many new cookbooks, it really helps me keep from getting into a cooking rut. All those ideas tend to spark some new thoughts. So I'd suggest that you try to get a feel for what she typically has enjoyed cooking and eating, and try to find some inspirational writers whose work she might enjoy.

Another source of inspiration: markets. Farmers markets, well-stocked grocery stores, "ethnic" markets. Can you take her to some of your favorite sources, and/or sources of things she has typically liked? That might help. 

And finally, if she has any space for this at all (even a patio): Think she might like vegetable gardening? I find it incredibly fulfilling. Very gratifying -- and inspiring.

Cooking classes are great ways to get excited about and be introduced to new foods and different techniques. You could go together. 

So you couldnt find more Q places outside the beltway in VA and MD??? You missed some real gems. I would eat cold MREs before I went to most of Q restaurants you all selected.

Oh, really? I'm sure Tim would be happy to hear your suggestions. Email to food@washpost.com, and we'll pass it along.

but, alas, I am eating low carb (actually, not "alas" as it is keeping me healthy) Do you think I could adapt it to cauliflower? Would you roast or steam the cauliflower instead of boiling it?

Roast it with a spice rub. Or, just have a little potato salad. 

What worked for me is popping a plate of whatever you're eating in front of them and let them have at it. No cajoling, no big deal. I think if you start to overly encourage them, it puts them off. If you get a definitive negative response to a particular food, wait a month or two and try again. Their tastes, just like ours, change.

Not a novel suggestion really, but any time they can feel connected to the growing or prepping of the food they are more interested in try it. Even really little kids can help wash and pat dry veggies, or help with simple measuring, or help pick out fruits at the farmers' market.

Toss in a stalk or two of chopped celery, and it'll reduce the stench considerably. The cooked celery is also edible.

Be sure to add a *little bit* of finely chopped raw garlic, and generous handfuls of chopped fresh parsley (I prefer the flat Italian, in part because it's easier to wash). S&P to taste.

Hi! I'm going to take Dorie Greenspan's gougeres to a friend's housewarming party. Do you have any ideas for something complementary to bring with them? Something that doesn't require utensils? Thanks!

Nice! How 'bout a walnut and red pepper spread? Use the gougeres or baked pita triangles = edible utensils. 

 

Hi. I have a thermapen that I use all the time for checking meat temperatures. I also have a big old clunky candy thermometer; I've never used it. I would like to make vegan yoghurt (first time), which seems to involve lots of temperature checking and the recipes I've read suggest using a candy thermometer. Is there a reason I can't use the thermapen? Is there a digital version of a candy thermometer? Thanks.

You can absolutely use a Thermapen for this.

My kid's more of a preschooler now, but what worked well for us was letting him be involved as much as possible with the food prep, even if it was just letting him play in the kitchen while we cooked - if he thought he was getting away with something, he'd steal raw veggies off the counter (or right off the plant in the garden, but that's not an option for everyone). Presenting sauces as a "dip" and letting him set the proportions, as suggested, was also helpful, though I wouldn't suggest sweet dips like honey for fruit - fruit's sweet enough!

Do you have any all-time favorite products you've helped developed or are particularly proud of (beyond what was mentioned in the article)? Thanks!

 Surf Chips – Groovy Potato Chips. Unlike what it is out there in the market, these potato chips are not enhanced with flour or other nonsense artificial flavors. They are crispy and addictive.

 

Natural Nectar Hazelnut spread and speculoos spread to fill that nutella gap. Most recent launched exclusively at the new Whole Foods in Pentagon City – Honest Sport. A natural sports drinks with the right amount of electrolytes to refresh and to re hydrate athletes.

I saw the finale when I was on vacation last year (think I was actually in Belgium). I'm still watching. And I got the CUTEST GBBO tea towels in TK Maxx between a Saturday matinee an evening performance.

I'm certain that you have to go where the data takes you, but has there been a trend that you've encountered where you said to yourself, "Really? This is the crap people want?"

I would say fermented foods. Not in my shopping list.

Well, you've processed us in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and thanks to AnaMaria, Nancy and Carrie for helping with the a's.

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who first asked about flowering herbs will get "Dandelion & Quince." The one who asked about helping a friend get out of a cooking rut will get "Berries" -- maybe that'll be the ticket! Send your mailing information to Kara.Elder@washpost.com, and she'll get you your books!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating, reading AND shopping!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Maura Judkis
Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts.
AnaMaria Friede
AnaMaria Friede is a buyer for the Mid-Atlantic region of Whole Foods Market.
Nancy Baggett
Nancy Baggett is a cookbook author and blogger. She wrote this week's article about lavender.
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