Free Range on Food: Breaking your plastic habit, how to drink tequila, this week's recipes and more.

Jul 11, 2018

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

Greetings, everybody! Happy summer, and welcome to today's chat. 

Hope you're enjoying what we've been cooking up for you lately, including:

So, so much more.

Kristen and Carrie will be joining us today, so make your questions good! 

We'll have a giveaway book or two for our favorite chatter today, so keep that in mind!

And, for you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR3224 . Remember, you'll record and enter it at 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!

I love Mary Berry on the Great British Baking Show. I'd love to buy one of her books, but, as I already have too many cookbooks, I only want to buy one. Any recommendations, or are they all great?

I love Mary Berry, too, which is why it's such a bummer that she's not in the show's new seasons (the season we're currently seeing on PBS is from 2012, I believe).

ARTICLE: Without Mary Berry, ‘The Great British Bake Off’ has officially hit soggy bottom

I actually got to talk to her when I wrote about Harry and Meghan's royal wedding cake and she was just as charming and British and lovely and MARY as you would expect. 


Anyway, I haven't seen all of her cookbooks, but I can heartily endorse "Mary Berry's Baking Bible," which has a lot, but not too many, recipes. I own it! Lots of classics and some creative things, very approachable.

In the meantime, we have some Mary recipes in our database, from when Bonnie and I blogged along with the show a few years ago.

Mary Berry's Frosted Walnut Layer Cake

RECIPE: Mary Berry's Frosted Walnut Layer Cake

Hot Chocolate Souffle

RECIPE: Hot Chocolate Souffle

And this beauty from when I wrote about hosting an afternoon tea.

ARTICLE: The no-frills, very British way to host an afternoon tea

Battenberg Cake

RECIPE: Battenberg Cake

Good Afternoon! I have sour cherries from my csa that are too small to pit so I was thinking that I might make sour cherry liqueur and have been looking up recipes and I see some that add sugar during the fermenting time, some that add it halfway through, and then some that add it afterwards. Any advice on which sounds accurate, or is it just a matter of taste? Thanks!

By "fermentation" time, do you mean "infusion" time? (I'm wondering because "fermentation" seems to suggest you'll actually be distilling it yourself afterward, which is both complicated and illegal :) ) Assuming you mean "infusion," I think it's largely a matter of taste -- mostly, homemade liqueurs are made by infusing chopped fruits/herbs etc. into a higher proof blank-slate spirit like vodka (it's great to use something that comes in at 100 proof, because it'll pull out more of the flavors from the fruit) and adding sugar and sometimes water to cut the proof back. I've had good results adding sugar at different times, but might suggest waiting till the end of the infusion process so you get the best sense of how much sweetness has already gotten in via the cherries. But you might try testing and seeing which you like best.

Interesting how at the same time you did a great article on not using plastic in the kitchen, you publish a recipe for corn salad made in a plastic bag... Nevertheless, the article had lots of great ideas and the corn salad looks delicious.

I KNOW! We are so interesting, aren't we? We reflect all kinds of perspectives! ;-) The truth is, you could certainly use one of the Stasher silicone bags Kristen mentioned in her great piece for this; the largest they come is half-gallon, but I bet it would work.

RECIPE: Spicy Thai Corn Salad

Can I use regular salt instead of kosher? They only sell kosher salt in 5 lb boxes where I am. Would I reduce the amount if I use regular salt?

Sure, you can use regular! I'd use about 3/4 teaspoon in the batter and stick with the 1/4 teaspoon in the peach butter.

Peach and Brown Sugar Muffins

RECIPE: Peach and Brown Sugar Muffins

Joe's recipe for corn salad looks wonderful! Just wondering, have any of you tried a vegan fish sauce substitute? Cooks' Illustrated has a recipe with dried porcini mushrooms and soy sauce as principal ingredients, and amazon sells "fysh" sauce that has seaweed as its main ingredient.

I really like that Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen substitute. (Although if I recall, I *think* it uses shiitake, at least according to the version in one of the books I have.) I actually just made some this weekend to go in the sauce for the vegetarian summer rolls I featured in my rice paper post the other month. It's quite good, very easy and lasts well in the refrigerator.

Vegetarian Summer Rolls

RECIPE: Vegetarian Summer Rolls

Saiphin Moore, whose "Rosa's Thai Cafe" cookbook I got that great corn salad from, says she uses a combination of soy sauces and salt instead of fish sauce, and looking through her book, I don't see an actual recipe for that, but the recipes often use light soy sauce, regular soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and sweet soy sauce in various combinations, sometimes with what she calls vegetarian oyster sauce (which I've never used).

Do you have any favorites? I like The Splendid Table, but I'm looking for more. Thanks!

I'm a fan of "The Sporkful," hosted by Dan Pashman, and not just because Dan has the best, full-throated laugh in the business. He has great guests and tackles good, in-depth subjects. He also has had the great Mimi Sheraton, former restaurant critic for the New York Times, on his program. I could listen to her all day, every day.

Racist Sandwich is a great one! Also recently started listening to Gastropod.

Agreed on all the above, and would also add "Gravy."

The article on reducing plastic had me until the very end. I often reuse paper towels, rinsing them out and letting them dry, but if I'm wiping up meat juices or patting meat dry, I wouldn't be comfortable using a bamboo fiber towel. (My wooden cutting boards go in the dishwasher for the same reason after cutting raw meat.) The paper towel probably decomposes faster than the bamboo, so is it really worth the effort and expense to seek out bamboo towels, especially if I can find paper towels made of already recycled paper?

My article definitely was about my personal journey and what worked for me, which means that everyone has to determine what works for them! I tended to use paper towels for simple things, like quickly wiping up a liquid spill, and mainly I used them for wiping off my counters each day with a citrus-based cleanser. For me, the bamboo paper towels are great for this, because they are a little thicker than traditional paper towels and thus hold up a little better, in my experience. So, I'm using them for pretty specific purposes and I still keep a roll of regular paper towels handy whenever they are more useful in a specific task, just as you noted.

ARTICLE: How to break your plastic, foil and paper addiction in the kitchen

Thank you for Kristen's article on reducing use of plastics in the kitchen! On a related note, I wanted to give a shout-out to Compost Crew, which we pay for weekly pickups of compostable materials. Their customer service has been great, and they accept a much longer list of materials than we have used in our efforts at home composting. (I have no ties to this company other than being a happy customer!)

Yes, we have some great programs in our area for this kind of thing, and I'm a huge fan of DC's citywide compost program where you can drop off your kitchen compost each week at different locations (shout out to the one at Eastern Market!). I was also really interested to learn about programs like TerraCycle, because we all probably throw out things like old pans, kitchen utensils, small appliances, etc., all the time without really thinking about what happens to them later. 

I just ordered a spice blend that is a mix of chili and sweet spices like cinnamon, and it meant to be used on fruit. What are some dishes you think this would work well with? I'm thinking back to a now defunct Bethesda restaurant (sorry, name eludes me) that used to serve a wonderful dessert consisting of a slice of fresh pineapple, topped with vanilla ice cream, drizzled in a caramel sauce, and lightly sprinkled with white pepper, it was wonderful. But, I think I'd like to skip the ice cream part, and concentrate on more fruit.

I'd sprinkle it over watermelon, mango, and/or pineapple and eat it straight, just like that. (Also, in non-fruit things, jicama!)

Also, I was visiting my parents the past few weeks and my mom made this reallyreally great dessert that this sounds perfect for: slices of watermelon soaked in a tequila and orange liqueur syrup, served with a squeeze of lime and a sprinkling of salt and chile flakes. 


I made this last night. It's definitely not a spur of the moment meal but it's so, so good. I cooked the beans on Sunday and then put them in the fridge until last night. You guys are awesome! Joe, I wish you'd post some recipes for what you ate in Mexico. I'm sure you had some amazing meals.

So glad you like these! One of my favorites. And you've taken the words out of my mouth about how these can indeed by spur of the moment -- just make those beans in advance! Good job. (BTW, I know I remind people about this from time to time, but please go rate and comment/review the recipe on our site -- really helps people find good recipes and know about readers' own experiences with them, including adjustments and suggestions like what you mentioned about the advance cooking!)

As for recipes from Mexico City, I am working on some in my spare time, but saving them for a bean cookbook!

Enfrijoladas With Egg, Avocado and Onion

A couple of weeks ago someone was looking for old-time cakey cookies. I've made these and they are good. 

Thanks! Wondering if Stella Parks's riff on Lofthouse cookies would be just the thing, too.

DC resident here looking to go to culinary school. Now that L'Academie de Cuisine closed, are instructors teaching somewhere else locally or are there any other worthwhile culinary programs in the area? I was hoping to continue working while I go to culinary school, but that's looking pretty impossible now.

L'Academie de Cuisine (where I studied) was a big loss. 

There are several places where you can now get a culinary education, including the Art Institute of Washington (in Arlington, actually) and Stratford University in Falls Church. Here's a list for you.


ARTICLE: L'Academie de Cuisine, one of nation's top culinary schools, abruptly closes after 41 years.

I'd been embarrassed to bring this up so appreciate your article -- When I lived in developing countries, pretty much everyone washed and reused aluminum foil, including us. (When I was a child, we said tin foil. I don't know what it really was.) I still reuse foil unless it has burned stuff stuck all over it - it goes in the dishwasher. Yet I feel like I should be embarrassed at being so "cheap!" Maybe you'll spark a new conversation.

Yes, yes -- I grew up with this practice as well, so I totally get it! I will wash and reuse lots of things like aluminum foil, plastic bags, etc. -- but the reconsidering what products I used in the first place, and wondering what really happened to them when I finally threw them out, was a great process in self-awareness. I'm perhaps hyper-aware now of things like the plastic wrappers on fortune cookies, but I think that there are lots of small things we've become accustomed to that we should be questioning more.

I loved the article on breaking addictions to foil and other disposables in the kitchen. I can't wait to check out many of the products. I'd love to hear from readers about ways they "stay green" in the kitchen. Personally, I've banned paper towels. I have a stash of bar cloths and use them instead. I rinse them out if they aren't too messy or else toss them in the wash. (I am going to pick up bamboo paper towels for my mother-in-law, though, who probably goes through a roll a week!)

I'd love to hear people's tips and tricks too, and that's the great thing about starting the conversation! I also use bar towels, as well as cloth napkins instead of paper, and often do simple things like just place a plate over a bowl to cover food in the fridge. It was great to also explore what new products are out there that could be useful and think about what small changes I could make that might be impactful.

Ill be making your Tomato-Balsamic chicken recipe today, which looks delicious and easy, but I have question about poaching chicken. I've never used this method, thinking that anything simmered in plain water is going to sap any taste right out of the food, and chicken isn't all that flavorful to begin with. Does it help to add a bay leaf or seasonings, or does it not matter because of the flavor punch from the balsamic vinegar sauce? Thanks!

Tomato-Balsamic Chicken

The sauce does have a ton of flavor, so not sure the bay leaf or other seasonings would come through. Let us know how you like the recipe!

ARTICLE: This 25-minute chicken recipe is so good it could bring back the balsamic craze


So... maybe I don't exactly understand what distilling is but I thought if I made some kind of alcoholic beverage for my own personal purposes it would be legal. Can you elaborate a little, please?

If you're actually "fermenting" fruit to make into a liqueur, that will usually require a still to get it up to a liqueur-level proof (as opposed to the beer-level ABV you can get to through fermentation), and home stills are illegal. You might be able to ferment your cherries into cherry wine type of thing at home? And you can absolutely infuse your own fruit into a bottle of vodka or brandy or whatever to make a homemade cherry liqueur -- totally OK. All that involves is simply marinating the fruit in booze you've already bought and adding sugar, etc. There just really isn't much "fermentation" involved in that, so I just wanted to make sure I was understanding your question correctly. Anything that requires a still, as far as I know, is still barred for the average citizen and requires a whole lot of paperwork, permitting, etc. That's why home brewing is a thing but home distilling leads to the pokey. Here's the word from the feds on this issue

I use Japanese bento boxes to take my lunch in and a stainless steel water bottle instead of bottled water, and canvas bags for groceries at the store. Reusable glass dishes for leftovers in the freezer, and after I freeze fresh fruit on cookie sheets it goes into these containers as well. The sad part is using plastic bags at the grocery store for produce. For hygiene reasons, I doubt the stores would let me bring my own.

I echo your feelings about the produce bags at grocery stores, although most stores will let you use your own bags if you want to -- and I usually opt to just not use those bags at all, as lots of produce items - bananas, cabbage, lettuce, citrus - really don't have to be bagged in order for the cashier to ring them up.

I do as Kristen does. It's all going to get washed anyhow, I figure. (Although I remember reading about food-safety issues with the grocery store conveyor belt a few years ago that gave me pause.)

Last week I made the Voraciously Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes (delicious! Even more fun with chocolate chips added in.). For the recipe I purchased a pint of buttermilk, of which I used half. I then used 1/4 cup for a buttermilk dressing for a potato salad. I know the stuff is pretty cheap, but assuming it passes the sniff test, any ideas of what to do with my remaining 3/4 cup of buttermilk?

Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes

ARTICLE: The only pancakes worth getting out of bed for on a lazy Sunday

So happy to hear that! As Joe likes to remind folks, feel free to rate the recipe. :)

This biscuit recipe from Dorie Greenspan calls for exactly 3/4 cup of buttermilk! And don't worry, that extra buttermilk will last for weeks, if not months.

Buttermilk Biscuits With Double Ginger Butter

RECIPE: Buttermilk Biscuits With Double Ginger Butter

You were missed last week! I wanted to ask if you agree that eating hot food when it's hot outside helps you feel cool. You weren't available so I tried eating a bowl of pho. It didn't work for me. Was it supposed to be hot-spicy not hot-temperature? While we're having another heat wave, I hope you will run a list of foods besides ice cream to keep us cool or make us cool. Thank you!

It's about how our body regulates our temperature. Spicy foods cool us down because the capsaicin causes us to sweat, which cools us. The problem I've often had with that prescription is that certainly in DC, I have no problem sweating without eating spicy food -- but I love it anyway, so there you go! 

Just wanted to give a shout out to Trader Joe's cauliflower pizza crust. I am not gluten-free, but appreciate the lower calories. You bake the crust, topping-free, on both sides for ten minutes, then top and put under the broiler for a few minutes. We have been spreading a pesto/ ricotta cheese mixture on it, then topping with sauteed mushroom, zucchini, corn, and goat cheese. Very delicious.

Never tried it, but I know people swear by those. Thanks for the report.

Joe also has a recipe for the DIY types.

Cauliflower Pizzas With Chard and Olives

RECIPE: Cauliflower Pizzas With Chard and Olives

Here is another type where they are bigger. 

Yes, there's lots of different products out there once you start looking around!

I started to knit by own dishcloth out of cotton yarn a few years ago. (I know it sounds over the reaction the first time I heard a friend tell me about her knitting projects). Well, now I am hooked. I use them all the time for wiping up spills on my kitchen counters. They absorb better than any bamboo towels I have tried. I throw them in the washing machine and dryer with my clothes or hang them on my top dish washer rack so they wash with my dishes. They easily last for a year. They knit up fast (even for a slow knitter like me), often in one night since they are small. Just another option. (But as another reader said, I don’t use them for raw poultry or meat drips.)

They sound great! I have actually used cotton diapers (yes, clean and unused) for years -- it's a trick I learned from my dad, a retired boatbuilder, because they absorb really well and are often used in boatyards.

Don't be hard on yourself. A family friend's parents were self-made millionaires, and still washed out each plastic storage bag to dry and reuse. That attitude is probably part of how they became rich.

I freeze lots of prepared foods in 1-2 serving amounts in plastic freezer bags. Then later I wash the emptied bags by hand and reuse them later for similar purpose. That way I am not going thru boxes and boxes of them. Is that a safe approach? Or do I need to use the special bags listed in the Washington post article? The article today gave me lots to think about...

I absolutely reuse the same plastic freezer bags over again in the same way that you describe, and there's no reason that you shouldn't continue to do that as long as the bags are washed and stay intact. My journey really began because I noticed that I had gotten into a bad habit of grabbing plastic sandwich bags to store small items -- say, a leftover bit of ginger root or a couple pieces of pita bread -- and I felt like I needed to pay closer attention to my overall consumption of plastic, and other, products in the kitchen. It's turned out to be a great journey that has made me more aware of how much plastic we routinely take for granted.

I suppose I should read that article. It's become a family joke that whenever we do the holidays at my brother's home (he cleans up the kitchen, then gets out of the way so my sister and I can have free reign to cook), I end up leaving boxes of foil, plastic wrap, parchment paper, etc., behind. He now has a large collection of wraps, which is ironic, since he rarely cooks. But, lo and behold, he phoned me last week to say that he'd grabbed one of the boxes and discovered the wonders of parchment paper when cooking. It was a new world for him, lol.

I'm a huge fan of parchment paper, you won't get any argument from me on that! I definitely still use cling wrap and foil, etc., when necessary, but now I think twice to make sure I really need it first!

Can you freeze milk for later use in baking? We're in a pattern of buying a quart, using three cups for a recipe we make weekly, and losing the remainder since we don't use it for anything else. Can we just pour the remaining cup into a container in the freezer and then use the frozen whenever there's enough there?

Yes you can!

Hi all, happy hump day. :) Could you recommend a pan that can go both in an oven and on the stove top? Like a dutch oven, but casserole-y... I need a non-stick square one, either 9x9 or 9x13, but don't know which brand is best. Any favorites in the more affordable range, probably not exceeding $50? Thank you! (And sorry if this question comes twice, the page reloaded while I was typing...)

I'm gonna throw this to the crowd -- chatters, ideas?

My two cents worth: Costco would have to do much worse than get rid of their brats before I'd relinquish my membership. It's my happy place.

Not sure non stick can go on the oven. I would go for the standard cast iron enameled of all cald. I don't think the non stick is oven safe.

I am sooo tired of fish sauce, particularly as some restaurants seem to think we'll be impressed if they use an extra-generous amount! So, thank you for the fish sauce-less recipe.

I think a lot of my generation uses paper towels in the kitchen because they grew up with washcloths that weren't laundered often enough, and they think grey smelly cloths are the norm. (Yes, Mom & MIL, I'm lookin' at you.) I have a ton of washcloths for the bathroom and kitchen (I knit with cotton yarn, as well, and it's a fun way to try out a stitch pattern and then you have more dishcloths), and I use one a day, or even one per use, and I rinse in hot water and let dry before putting them into the laundry hamper. I can't believe that one hot laundry load a week is worse for the environment than using up a roll of paper towels in that time, even if the paper is biodegradeable. That said, thank you for the bamboo paper towel info! I had no idea those existed.

I use lots of cloths and dishtowels as well and do a weekly wash in the same way, so I'm with you (and let me say that my article could easily have been a lot longer if I'd included everything I actually do at home!). I like having the bamboo paper towels because they are super absorbent for wiping up liquid quickly, and they really last a long time -- I've barely made a dent in the roll that I bought in January!

I took a rare trip out to the suburbs to hit H Mart and overdid it a little. For instance, I now have a large bottle of rose water. I've found several recipes that use it, and it's great, but I'm looking for some more general "guidelines" because most of my cooking is improv. What kinds of dishes--not necessarily specific recipes--could I use this in to add a little extra something?

It's hard to go to H Mart and not overdo it!

Rose water is good in sweet and savory dishes (and drinks!); as you've probably seen, you'll find it used in many Middle Eastern recipes. And it sounds like you've tried it already, so you know it's strong and potent and has potential to overpower? 

I'm going to give you specific recipes that use it, and then you can improv from there: 

Rose Petal Harissa

RECIPE: Rose Petal Harissa

Chickpea Cookies (Nan-e nokhodchi)

RECIPE: Chickpea Cookies (Nan-e nokhodchi)

Pistachio Cake With Yogurt Mousse and Saffron-Poached Oranges

RECIPE: Pistachio Cake With Yogurt Mousse and Saffron-Poached Oranges


RECIPE: Strawberries and Cream With Rose Water and Pistachios

The Amarose

RECIPE: The Amarose

Host Cynthia Graber is a local - she grew up in Rockville!

Oh cool, I didn't know that!

For Kristen: One of the *many* reasons I love shopping at Mom's is the produce bags are all biodegradable/compostable. I stockpile them for a variety of uses but their greatest quality makes saving them for later hard - they break down relatively quickly. Any tips for helping them last longer in my pantry? I always try to wipe them down so they aren't wet before storing them - maybe I'm storing them wrong!?

I love those bags too! So, I actually will turn the bags inside out, rinse them gently in the sink, and then let them air-dry (I use a tall bottle like a wine bottle as a drying rack), then I stick them back inside my cotton grocery bags for the next trip to the store. They should last at least a few more times for produce shopping!

I never use paper towels - don't have them in the house and almost never miss them. Hubby and I have no kids or pets. I use tea towels and bath towels for spills and microfiber for wiping down. Wiping a counter with a paper towel didn't clean - just dry. We are sold a marketing pup that disposable is cleaner. I know my towels and a cloths are clean but I don't know what the facory that makes paper towels is like. I also think food and drink tastes worse in disposable.

We definitely have become accustomed to living in a disposable society and accept a lot of things that we might want to question. For instance, I bought some beautiful king oyster mushrooms yesterday at a supermarket that were pre-packaged in a styrofoam tray and them wrapped in plastic wrap, and I really wish I could have bought them without so much packaging.

I second all the recommended podcasts, though fwiw Pashman's laugh on the sporkful I find terribly annoying rather than a plus. But net net i enjoy the show. Gravy & Racist Sandwich are both fantastic & under appreciated (though not by this chat- yay). All are more about food as a whole rather than the recipe/advice for cooks that Splended Table is (or was, have to admit I haven't tuned for years so maybe the 'new' host has changed it up?).

Just wanted to let you know the cobblers in a mug are incredibly tasty! I made it three times last week. The best part is that I can reduce the sugar/maple syrup in mine while making my husband's per the recipe. Modifications: we did strawberry-blueberry once and just blueberries twice. I also used Miyoko's butter to veganize the recipe. I've already provided comments/review but couldn't give it a 5-star rating.

Great to hear!

But ... why couldn't you rate it? Send us an email to and we'll report the issue if it's a technical glitch.

RECIPE: 6-Minute Berry Cobbler Mugs

Short of ordering on line, where can i find a local source for whole grain white pepper? Thanks. Muriel

Bazaar Spices, Penzeys or the Spice and Tea Exchange would have it, I'd think! And stores such as Yes! Organic or Whole Foods, with bulk spice sections, might carry it as well.

and it is as dry as the Sahara and under seasoned. It was a branded chicken, so I assumed that it was injected with a brine solution enough to generally avoid the problem. I put a spice blend with salt in it on the buttered skin. So that didn't help. Any suggestions on ways to help with the problem? Butter under the skin? Less cooking? It did get a bit above the recommended cooking temp, but I'm not sure how to figure out how much less time will get it to a safe temp, but not higher. Thanks for any assistance.

Would you be interested in trying the roast chicken method I highlighted on Voraciously awhile back? You start in a hot oven and let the chicken finish cooking with the oven off. It works, keeps things nice and juicy.

ARTICLE: Roasting a chicken is as easy as putting a baking sheet in the oven

I always reuse my plastic produce bags. It's not as if you are giving a used bag to someone else. On a side note, when I dropped off food at the Columbia Heights composting site, one of the people there said she thought Trader Joe's produce bags are compostable now.

I believe they are. I've seen the notes there.

I have found the perfect ratio of lemon juice to powdered sugar for a lemon glaze on my cupcakes - just the right balance of sweet and sour. The problem is... the glaze is too runny and doesn't harden at all! How can I best thicken it without compromising taste?

I think anything you do to thicken is going to affect the taste at least a little. You could try some meringue powder, the type people use to make royal icing. That will help things set more, though of course you'll need to increase the lemon juice. Or a verrrrry little melted white chocolate or even cream cheese? Again, you'll need to tweak to get back up to the lemon juice flavor you want.

Chatters, anything I'm missing?

I want to thank Dave McIntyre for his lovely appreciation of Dennis Horton a couple of weeks ago. I have enjoyed his wines quite a few times over the years. My brother introduced us to them. He was looking for calculators for his kids and ended up at Horton's office supply store. He noticed that there were more wines in the store than office supplies. Horton was there and he talked to Horton and sampled some of the wines. So he went home with both calculators and wines. He served them with dinners and we liked them quite a bit. Good wines at an inexpensive price.

Thanks for these memories. He sounds like he was an amazing man.

APPRECIATION: The man who turned underdog grapes into Virginia's star wines

Just one more question on this one... are the green beans raw (implied by recipe) or cooked (as they appear in the photo)?

Raw -- as specified in recipe and as reflected in the photo! (We shoot the real thing around here, right after we make it!) The pounding gets the dressing into the beans and makes them easy to eat. Plus, there aren't many of them. I like the texture the way it is, but if you don't, feel free to lightly steam or microwave or blanch.

I'm interested in Kristen and readers' opinions about non-plastic straws (Phasing out disposable plastic straws is obviously going mainstream - thanks Starbucks!) I switched to Eco Products compostable straws but i still feel somewhat wasteful. But the idea of cleaning the stainless steel reusable ones with a special pipe cleaner after every use is a massive turn off. Does putting them in the dishwasher work at all? Can I keep up my compostable straw habit or do I really need to invest in the stainless steel ones?

This is probably not what you want to hear, and I want Kristen's take, but honestly, I think we all need to startlearning how to drink without straws at all. Maybe it'll get us to stop and enjoy those drinks on site rather than carrying them around! Or pour the drinks into bottles that don't require straws. (That's what Starbucks is doing -- rolling out new sippy-cup type lids. But wouldn't it be great to move past the disposable cups and lids, too?)

Okay, so now you know the next story I want Joe to let me work on, lol -- I'm the biggest offender when it comes to straws (I can admit that I have a Starbucks iced tea habit). I tried at one point to always have a reusable cup and straw with me whenever I went to Starbucks; that kind of worked back in the day when I had a car (haven't had a car for seven years though), because I'd always keep a clean cup/straw in the car to use whenever I went to Starbucks, but I'm really not good at carrying around a reusable cup or bottle whenever I am walking around now, just on the off-chance that I might stop off for an iced tea. I do like the new skippy-cup lids and I'm definitely in favor of restaurants not just automatically putting straws in drinks (non-alcoholic or alcoholic) because, honestly, how many people use straws at home when they pour a drink? It's up to us to say we don't want them!

I am submitting late and have one question and a statement: 1) can an individual person go to the fancy food show? 2) I use the silpat that I got from amazon instead of foil wrap on my baking sheets and it works perfectly and cleans easily.

Sorry, Fancy Foods Show is for trade only. (And media, natch.)

10 trendy foods you'll soon be seeing everywhere

Buttermilk, too?

And Toto too. 

(It might separate a little, but that's fine for cooking/baking!)

Good afternoon! I'm really interested in reducing my kitchen waste so thank you for the great article! I am guilty of having used a lot of aluminum foil on baking sheets while roasting either meat or vegetables. Unfortunately, without a protective barrier on the baking sheet, it seems that oil, residue, etc. just gets baked on so easily and makes it very hard to clean! I've tried switching to parchment paper as paper is more environmentally friendly and biodegredable. Any tips for the actual cooking of food and then cleaning up afterward? I feel like this is going to be my biggest hurdle as I am already on board with using glass containers, buying in bulk, not using plastic bags at the grocery store, etc. Thank you!

I use parchment paper a lot and you could also invest in a Silpat -- basically a reusable silicone sheet pan liner -- which works great. And I'll also give a shout-out to Becky Krystal's great piece about Bar Keeper's Friend, a great cleaning product that I've used forever (back in the days when I was actually a bar keeper) -- it cleans up the residue on pots and pans like a dream, all you need is a little elbow grease!

Love that Brits are really starting to push back about this. Their supermarkets are starting to change.

Yes! We need to do the same here!

I've asked Carrie about gin before. She's a fan of the stuff! I'm still a novice but continue to explore. I've learned that I really like Tanqueray and Bombay but don't think all that highly of Beefeater. I'm currently working through a bottle of the Botanist, about which I'd heard raves. It's ... fine, I guess? I'm wondering if you can tell me what I like about the first two that might not be as noticeable or present in the latter two? Is it juniper? I'm still not sure what, exactly, juniper is or what it tastes like, but I keep being told that some people like juniper and others don't. Whatever the case, my Botanist is almost gone. What's your one recommendation for my next bottle of gin?

Hmm, interesting. Juniper would be my first guess, but there's such a range of botanicals in gins that it's hard to surmise -- the Botanist is definitely a little less traditional in its herb/spice melange. Next bottle -- see what you think about Barr Hill (which is distilled with honey -- just lovely) and maybe Opihr, which has some gorgeous Asian spice notes.

Pour that extra buttermilk in a freezer bag of some sort, seal it, and stand it up in freezer till solid. Then when needed for those lovely biscuits another time, just take out and defrost. It separates a bit but it works perfectly in cooking or baking.

I have a bottle of Vegetarian Fish Sauce with ingredients say bean sauce, salt, sugar, water, chili and a couple of other vegan-looking things. Probably came from Grand Mart at Seven Corners in Falls Church. I can't evaluate how close it is to fish sauce, but good for people to know they may not have to DIY. Also, depending on the recipe, I find soy sauce sufficient.

Thank you!

Mom's Organic Market takes a tremendous assortment of things for recycling. They also take compost, but given the amount we generate, we love Veteran's Compost.

I love Mom's.

Raw beans are not good for you. Always cook them. Fresh green or wax don't need to be cooked long, they can still be crisp. Cook until they turn bright, then cool them quickly so they retain their color and crispness.

If you're talking about the lectin thing, I believe green beans have much lower amounts of them than dried legumes like red kidney beans, pinto beans, etc.

What's the best way to freeze jalepenos so that I can use little bits at a time? I have a plant with three beautiful little guys (the first time I've ever grown food! I'm so proud!), and while I like semi-spicy food, I never find myself using more than a quarter of a pepper at a time. I was thinking I'd mince it, freeze on a baking sheet, then store in a bag so I can reach in a grab some from time to time. What do you think? And I'd love any suggestions you have for semi-spicy summer dishes where I can showcase my little guys!

Yeah, the mince and freeze is a good idea! Although I am usually lazy and just toss them in the freezer whole (in a plastic ... or other alternative type! ... bag), then defrost on the counter for a few minutes until they're soft enough to chop.

Hm, "semi-spicy summery dish" makes me think of fruit salsa.

Mango Tomatillo Salsa

RECIPE: Mango Tomatillo Salsa


Chipotle Shrimp With Tomato Corn Salsa

RECIPE: Chipotle Shrimp With Tomato Corn Salsa

Jalapeño Corn Saute

RECIPE: Jalapeño Corn Saute

Chickpea, Crisp Apple and Coconut Salad

RECIPE: Chickpea, Crisp Apple and Coconut Salad

Some of us need straws -- my teeth are really temperature-sensitive and I can't stand to drink anything iced without them. (I doubt the sippy-cup will work for me.) So we do need alternatives -- paper, bamboo, steel, glass, whatever. I have both glass and steel (because the glass ones are too fat for the hole in my reusable cup).


Is there a general rule of thumb for them? I mean, if I like my molasses cookies soft and all I have is a ginger-snap recipe, do you know how I would adjust? Liquid-to-solid ratio, or what?

Here's a great piece on cookie chemistry from King Arthur Flour. In short: try some shortening, brown sugar instead of granulated and maybe more egg.

Unused? Why? If they've been through the laundry on a hot wash, they're fine. (Yes, I grew up before disposable diapers and old cloth diapers were the go-to for mopping up anything and everything.)

It's certainly true that they are most likely fine, but I think it's fine for people to just get a package of new ones and dedicate them to using in the kitchen specifically. Many people use the used -- but obviously clean -- cloth diapers for tasks that don't involve food, such as washing cars, varnishing, etc.

I promise I don't work for them but I probably should....or at least own part of the company based on the money I spend there. Everything you need to reduce your footprint, they have. They also do periodic recycling drives for things like old denim clothing. AND they give you 10 cents off for every reusable bag you use when your shop. For me, that ends up being equal to a nice bottle of wine every year. (...I also highly recommend calculating cost savings in "bottles of wine" units).

I really enjoyed reading Kristen’s article. I’ve been making serious efforts to cut down landfill waste since living in Europe thirty years ago, but today I am happily aware of products I knew nothing about. And thanks, Joe, for that scary but essential article on grocry store conveyer belts! My philosophy is that a whatever I bring into the home in packaging or cleaning, needs to serve at least two purposes at the least.

I love that last sentence about thinking first about how many purposes something can serve before bringing it home -- that's exactly what I call having a mindful kitchen and home!

I have cut down on my use of foil on baking sheets by using my silicone mats mores. I find it hard to get them completely clean, though, there always seems to be a slightly greasy residue on them. Solutions?

I generally just use soap and hot water and lightly scrub with a sponge. If the residue is too stuck on, then you might not want to reuse!

If you want to use it up instead of freezing it, try this. It makes fabulous cakes and breads as well. has a recipe for the best chocolate cake made with buttermilk.

Thanks! Do you mean the Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake? Calls for milk, but Bonnie and I are both obsessed with this recipe and she heartily endorses using buttermilk in it.

I wanted to try kim chee, and I really thought it lasted forever, but the jar I bought recently has a "best by 7/26" label on it. It's "country style sliced kim chee," no seafood or anything. Is that just a legal requirement? How can kim chee go bad?

"Best by" doesn't mean it'll go bad by that date. It means that, for the seller, that's the date by which it'll be at its peak of flavor -- which is highly subjective, you might imagine. 

I wash and reuse on my next trip the plastic containers for olives from the olive bar & such, but I am somewhat surreptitious about it, since like the other poster I assume the store would say no if I asked if I could do it.

I think it's a great idea -- who's gonna know?!

A little cornstarch might do the trick?

Maybe? That would definitely dull the lemon flavor and I'm not sure it would be the best texture. Don't think it would dissolve very well without cooking. Usually cornstarch has to be cooked in a liquid or slurry to do its thing.

I think you could make a slurry with lemon juice and cornstarch and that would work fine -- just go light on the cornstarch!

Well, you've let us stand to cool slightly, so you know what that means -- we're done!

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

Now for the giveaway book: The chatter who asked about a vegan fish sauce substitute will get "Mindful Vegan Meals" by Maria Koutsogiannis. Send your mailing info to, and she'll get you your book!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

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.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Kristen Hartke
Kristen Hartke is a Washington-based food writer and editor.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer.
Recent Chats
  • Next: