Free Range on Food: Gnocchi, frozen drinks and more

Jul 17, 2013

Have you always wanted to learn to make gnocchi? Put your questions to Ripple executive chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley, who offers tips in our feature this week.
Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Welcome, all, to today's chat! What's on your mind/stove/fridge shelf? We are thinking pillowy, heavenly gnocchi over here, thanks to Bonnie's fun exploration of the secrets to making it. In that vein, we have Ripple chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley in the room to help handle (with a light touch, no doubt) your questions on gnocchi (and anything else, I'm sure). And Jim "Smoke Signals Means Greekacue" Shahin and Carrie "Freeze My Drink" Allan are here to help talk barbecue/grilling and booze, respectively.

And we regulars are around, too, naturally.

We'll have two giveaway books for the chatters who pose our favorite q's or comments: "The Washington Post Cookbook" (signed by Ms. B herself!) and "Franny's: Simple Seasonal Italian," source of her DinMin recipe today.

Let's do this!

I loved your feature on gnocchi today. It's one of my favorite "special" dishes to make. I'm curious about your thoughts on including eggs. I noticed all your recipes today do so. I've heard some scoff at this, while others say it helps ensure success. From my own experience, the only time I've had gnocchi not turn out well was a beet gnocchi I made without eggs (a lot of the them fell apart while boiling). I was also surprised by the short cooking time. In my experience, a few will bob to surface pretty quickly once added to boiling water, like in less than a minute. Is that what you're going for or should I let them cook a couple minutes?

I have made gnocchi with and without eggs as well.  I like using just the yolk because it adds a little binder with no rubberyness like the whites may add.  When making a flavored gnocchi like beet you want it because there is less gluten from the starch to bind it.  

Chef Jonathan Benno, Ripple exec chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley's muse, told me he no longer uses egg in his gnocchi. 

How did you handle the beets, btw? 

I'm glad you addressed the issue of whether to roll the formed gnocchi over a fork to make grooves. After doing that the first time and noticing that many restaurants don't, I decided it was an incredible waste of time and haven't bothered since. I have to point out the irony though that it's the chef from Ripple who advocates gnocchi without, um, ripples.

haha, I suppose I didn't even think of it....

I have made gnocchi with varied results, but it always tasted good with the exception of when I tried to make gluten free gnocchi. I really would like to see if I could try a good recipe for it, to you (or the chatters) have any suggestions?

Here's the thing. I tried 2 reputable GF recipes before I contacted Shauna Ahern/Gluten-Free Girl.  She and her chef husband, Danny, riffed on a Marco Canora recipe (because he worked for the famous NY chef long ago and always liked his take on the dish).  They helped me understand that you have to kind of toss out the expected flavor of gnocchi made with regular flour -- it does have a taste. The picture above is their GF recipe, which we ran online today. 


I thought the GF gnocchi were a bit underwhelming just out of the cooking water. But sauteed so they had a slightly crisped exterior, with herbs, and they were quite nice. Have faith, go forth and roll! 

what's the recipe for the salad in the picture over the "join us in the chat" link? It looks good.

Going out for my dad's birthday celebration with both parents. I'm vegan, they're not, and while they're very understanding and accommodating when it comes to what I choose to eat and not eat, I know a completely vegetarian restaurant is out of the question. After visits to Busboys and Poets, Eatonville and Founding Farmers, I'd like to take them somewhere new, but my mother is particularly unadventurous when it comes to food, thus I'm wary of taking them to somewhere like Rasika. (How's that for a run-on sentence!) Where should we go?

This is probably more for Tom Sietsema's chat, which happens at 11 a.m., but I will take a gander anyway. How about Zaytinya? Plenty of vegan options for you, and I think it's different enough to be something new while also being palatable to less adventurous eaters.

We loved Joe's ratatouille recipe from last week -- delicious, and much quicker to make than my usual ratatouille recipe! But we had a lot of trouble with the tomato crepes. They didn't seem to cook through very well and kept on scrunching up wen we tried to flip them. We tried changing the temperature of the burner, but it didn't fix the problem. Any idea where we went wrong?


Oh, dear! Hmm. I didn't have any trouble with these, which came from the book "Vegetables Please." It does sound like maybe they were cooking too quickly on the outside, which would be a burner-heat issue. The thing is, once a pan is hot, especially if you were using an iron crepe pan or the like, it can take a long while (or some cold water) for it to cool down, even when you turn down the heat. What size was your pan, btw? With an 8-inch pan and a scant 1/4 cup of batter, I was able to barely cover the surface when I swirled it, which worked well.

Balducci's in Alexandria had Mittlebach T-Zweigelt in stock last week (and it's delicious). From Dave's cabernet column, I found Frog's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon at the Total Wine in Alexandria on Duke St, and the nice wine expert there helped me find another wonderful cab. Most owners of wine stores are delighted to help you find something to your taste and to help you expand your tastes. That's the fun of going to a real wine shop.

Dave -- whose column this week is about the availability issue -- says, "That's the spirit!"

Hello Free Rangers, I have goat cheese, I have pesto. I am going to a party. What appetizer should I make? Happy to buy other ingredients to round out.

You may be able to sub your pesto for the one you'd make in this Goat Cheese and Pesto Bombe. You could also pretty easily just mix the goat cheese and pesto together to form a dip to serve with some toasted baguette rounds or crackers.

I like to mix half the goat cheese with the pesto and layer it with the plain.  If you put it in a little square casserole dish with plastic wrap you can unmold it and it looks nice with no real extra effort.  

Hi All, Good afternoon! My veg vendor in India has left me with 10 Kg of fresh green peas and I have managed to pod them all today which has left my hand aching and my brains dead! It is simply because I chewed his head all through summer to get me good peas and now that the monsoons are here, it's peas everywhere. Would be great if you could share some vegetarian green peas recipes. Thanks in advance and lunch well :)

Do you still have the pods? If so, salvage them to make the broth for Pea and Lettuce Soup.

Pea and Lettuce Soup

Other ideas:

Pea, Mint and Radish Salad

Pea, Mint and Radish Salad

Peas With Baked Ricotta and Bread Crumbs

Peas With Baked Ricotta and Bread Crumbs

Summer Salad With Golden Beet Vinaigrette

I am allergic to all citrus (unfortunately a recent thing) and am having a hard time finding a cool summer drink made without lemon, lime, etc. Any suggestions?? Thanks!

Oh no, a citrus allergy is a bummer! But yes: You might try using mango juice (you could buy this, but I'd recommend juicing fresh ataulfo mango instead.) Another possibility, especially good with tequila and/or mezcal, is melon -- honeydew and cantaloupe. I had a honeydew/mezcal drink a few years back that I still think about. Another possibility: there are some really lovely teas to be made and supplemented with booze -- wouldn't necessarily do these frozen, but they're definitely refreshing. Hope that helps!

I've only tried to make gnocchi once, and it didn't go well. The dough never quite seemed "right." It was more like mashed potatoes instead of actual dough, no matter what I did. I cooked it anyway, and the gnocchi ended up like my TempurPedic other words, bricks. Any tips? Would a food mill help? I had to improvise with a potato masher, which I'm sure didn't do the gnocchi any favors.

Yes, I have discovered that a good food mill is the key.  It keeps the potatoes light and airy instead of dense and mashed.

So I picked way too many peaches at the farm (Homestead Farm in MD is a wonderful place), which is to say I picked exactly the right amount. After years of always letting a few rot in the basket, and freezing a ton of them, that I would do some canning and made some jam last night. I checked the archives for recipes and found the peach saffron jam which I didn't make, but sounds awesome. However, in reading it to get some direction on the canning process I noticed a line about putting a towel in the bottom of the processing pot and have to ask... what's that all about? I ended up doing a pretty basic recipe and it needs to set up more, but the peaches were some good that it's gonna kill (and hopefully not because I did something wrong).

The towel is so the jars don't rattle around in the bottom of the pot. You can also use a round cake cooling rack, or I bought this canning basket/lifter apparatus from Ball that serves the same purpose.

That Peach Saffron Jam recipe, by the way, is pretty awesome. It was one of my first forays into canning. Didn't quite get the setting right, but it was delicious anyway.

Peach Saffron Jam

Just wanted to say thanks for a link in last week's chat for the winning healthy recipes from each state served at Michelle Obama's kids' state dinner. I made the "Fun Mini Pizzas with Veggies and Cauliflower Crust" and my family rated it two thumbs waaay up! Nobody had a clue the crust was made from cauliflower, and I was thrilled at the reduction in carbs. I will be trying many more recipes from that dinner.

Glad to hear it!

I read that kale is a powerhouse food. I've only been ever to eat it in soups but I'm wondering what hot weather ways there are to digest the bushy stuff?

Kale to the salad: Look over this batch o' recipes, including: 

with mushrooms, pecorino cheese, eggs and a miso dressing;

simply massaged, with a little cream, sugar and lemon juice; 

the White House way, served at Thanksgiving but quite appropriate year-round;

Might consider a kale pesto, too! 

Is there any way to salvage a stringy mango? I stopped buying mangoes for a while because I was getting so many stringy ones. Is throwing them out the only option? And is there any way to tell before you buy it if it's a good one? Thanks!!!

The only way to salvage a stringy mango, IMO, is to blend it up into a smoothie. And my experience has been that some varieties of mango are less stringy than others: Look for the aforementioned Ataulfo, or the champagne.

We have about 4 guests coming over this weekend for lunch. What would you suggest for an easy vegetarian lunch? I don't want it to be too heavy since it's so hot outside!

Hello all, Love your chat! I am in Seoul and recently bought a dozen corn. To my surprise, some were white, some were speckled white and purple, and some were purple altogether. The white corn is mildly sweet, the purple not at all. The kernels are smaller and a little tougher than what we typically have in the US. Any ideas what I can do with them? They are not so great eaten off the cob. Thanks!

Purple corn is hugely popular in Peru, where I visited last year and enjoyed my share of chicha morada, the ubiquitous  Peruvian soft drink (recipe here, but you'll need to dry your purple corn first).

Purple corn in  the U.S. is far less common, in part because we don't grow our corn in cool mountainous regions like they do in Peru. (Geek alert: The cool weather apparently causes the purple genes to express themselves.)


As for recipes, here are a few:

purple corn pudding


purple corn and pineapple sangria


purple corn tortillas


purple corn muffins

Hello, Rangers! I made blueberry jam over the weekend and it stained the inside of my enameled cast iron dutch oven. I've scrubbed and scrubbed and even tried boiling the pot on the stove with some dish detergent and baking soda - that helped slightly but it's still stained. Any thoughts on how to get the pot clean again? Thanks!

My ECI pots are way stained. I just think of it as proof that I've really used them. A patina! But for your purposes, to fight a new stain like this, I'd try soaking it in a bleach solution. Or use Bar Keeper's Friend or the cleaner that Le Creuset makes. (Some people say denture cleaner works, but I haven't gone there...)

I'm so tired of granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Are there any other kitchen redesign trends that don't include those tired elements?

AMEN to that.  

I've seen colored metals in stoves (Blue Star, french doors yay); and for quite a while a Canadian company has made colored enamel stoves that look a little bit retro. It's nice to have that pop of color -- appliances do not have to be matchy-matchy, do they? Glass-door front refrigerators are quite functional (no opening to see what's inside) and they come in narrower and very wide models these days. Countertops: Silestone holds up nicely and comes in many lovely colors. That thick, almost slab style has caught my eye and looks good atop any cabinets. If you have the luxury of a kitchen with space, think about a movable work table -- handsome or utiliarian -- instead of an island. Let's do a weekly chat about this! 

I love soapstone countertops; don't have them myself, but friends who do love them. Stainless countertops are worth considering, too, I think -- here's a place where the material actually has some function, rather than just for looks on the appliances. You can put hot pans on them! And they sanitize easily.

This was absolutely hilarious: " Washington hits a Ryan Goslingesque level of hotness." Another reason I'm really enjoying your new Spirits writer Carrie Allen. In addition to writing about interesting subjects, she clearly has a great wit.

Thank you! I thought Gosling was a safe choice, though perhaps more pleasant than the current DC temperature.

I have recently discovered spaetzle and have already moved very far away from traditional- with mediterranean flavors and even baked with swiss chard. However, I was wondering if you think I could substitute spaetzle for gnocchi in the Merguez Sausage Tomato Ragu recipe, or if you have any other interesting options for spaetzle?

I think that the sauce would go great with spaetzle.  It would probably be really good all mixed together then topped with some feta and mozz then baked.

For the beet gnocchi, I shredded 1/2 lb. beets in a food processor and cooked them with a little oil in a saucepan on medium low heat until they were soft. The recipe also had 1 lb. of russet potatoes, baked and riced and 3/4 cup of flour. This was a Mark Bittman recipe. Looking back, I think an egg or a yolk or two would have helped a lot.

Was that the feature with Mario Batali? I remember the colors of gnocchi were so vivid....along the way I was told several times that introducing vegetables with extra moisture increased the chances of gummyness or falling apart. If you like the color, maybe try beet powder instead, cutting back accordingly on the flour?

Need a somewhat easy vegetarian option that has no eggs or nuts. Thanks!

Oh dear, Millstone Coffee has decided to stop selling coffee beans from hoppers next to coffee grinders in grocery stores all over the country. The Smucker corporation says that coffee pods are replacing bulk coffee sales. Alas, the 10 Billion unrecyclable plastic/aluminum/spent coffee ground pods go to landfills and cost more in every way. Foodies, help save the fresh coffee in your own kitchen.

Oh, this is such a sore subject. A friend and I are always teasing each other about it because he likes those K cup things, and I think they're going to be the death of the planet. Although I did recently read about biodegradable/compostable versions of the cups, so that's a bright spot. But to me, the other problem of course is that the coffee they make is so much worse than what happens when you buy freshly roasted coffee, store it well, and grind it (preferably using a burr grinder) right before brewing.

So what I'm saying is, you should be buying whole beans anyway, and grinding them at home right before making your coffee. As soon as beans are ground they start to go stale.

Hi Rangers! My fiance and I will be heading home to visit my parents/friends/etc. for a week, and will have unfettered access to a grill. We do not have access to a grill in DC. My mind is aflutter with possibilities. We've already made (and plan to make)'s grilled cabbage with spicy lime dressing, as well as grilled corn (and may introduce my parents to the prospect of "grilled" guacamole) and are looking for your favorite (somewhat easy) grilling recipes to take full advantage of this opportunity. We'll grill anything, within reason! Any tried and true chicken, shrimp, veggie, or other things we should aim to include during that time? Thanks so much. You guys are great.


I'm sure everyone will have ideas for you, but here are two suggestions to start off the conversation:

Blue Fish, Two Ways (Food section contributor Tamar Haspel understands that blue fish holds up well on the grill and tastes great with a little smoky flavor.)


Brent Hughes' Spiced Chicken Wings (Wings are a great appetizer, of course, but I far prefer the flavor of grilled wings over fried ones.)


I am serving crab cakes and a corn and bacon hash for a lunch on Saturday. I was thinking the crab cakes could use some sort of sauce. Could you recommend something? Also, what other sides would you recommend? This is just for a small group. Thanks!


This recipe from chef Shannon Overmiller at the Majestic in Alexandria calls for a Dijonaise sauce, which adds both spice and acid to the crab meat. It might be overwhelming to those who prefer their crab straight and sweet, but I personally like the combo.


As for a side, I'd go with something lighter and brighter, like this Mediterranean Coleslaw, which will add acid and crunch to what sounds like a fairly heavy meal.

Rangers--I'm having 18 or so people over this weekend for swimming and an informal dinner. I want to use my new gas grill and was thinking of having both chicken and flank steak. I plan to make a recipe for pomegranate chicken (made with pomegranate molasses and boneless chicken thighs) but need a different yet complementary steak marinade. What would you recommend? Only caveat is no cilantro or dairy. Also, how many pounds of chicken/steak do you think I need? Thanks--you're the best!

   A great flavor pairing with pomegranate is chocolate. Here is a great chocolate-chile recipe that I have tried; I think your guests would go nuts (delete the cilantro, of course; maybe replace with fresh Thai basil):

For 18 people, serving both chicken and beef, assuming each person has a little of both, I'd recommend about 5 pounds of each, which may be a little much (roughly a half-pound per person of meat). But it depends on how you are serving and what you are serving with. Besdies, I'm fine with leftovers. 

We picked up something we were told were called African Kettle Eggplant at the farmers' market on Saturday. They are each about chick-pea sized. I've tried searches, but can't figure out what to do with these things, Any thoughts?

That's small! I've seen small ones, but nothing that small. Yowsa! Hmm. Well, I'd be tempted to stem 'em and roast 'em whole -- high heat, after tossing with oil and salt. You could even go with that chickpea theme and sprinkle with smoked paprika afterword. And/or make a salad of them PLUS chickpeas. That sounds tempting, don't you think? Could drizzle with a little tahini.

OK, now I want to find these. What market/vendor?

Hello. My grandmother from Italy had an Italian restaurant in upstate New York and was famous for her hand-rolled gnocchis. Thus far I have never heard of a recipe for them where the chef actually rolls them into shape using their three, or sometimes, two, fingers rather than using a fork as is the popular fashion here in America. Then, someone told me what she was doing was not in fact Gnocchis but something called Capunti, and then someone said no they weren't Capunti but rather something called Straglitoni (spelling maybe wrong there). Can some clear up this ongoing and raging family dispute about what she made? It has to be something from gnocchi dough that is ONLY rolled by hand. Thank you.

Let's put it out there and see what your fellow chatters have to say. A brief tour of interWeb photos shows capunti/strascinati are longer and thinner, plus they are rolled so that there are a series slits , not really a solid/pillow like gnocchi.  And hooboy, it seems like a tutorial that demands one-on-oneness. 


As I read through the Magazine this weekend, I thought that what he was describing had nothing to do with what I see here. He lamented the lack of (non-super) markets, butcher shops, etc. I suppose he might be right that DC proper doesn't have these things, but where I live, they are plentiful. Within a couple of miles I can choose between a latin butcher, a lebanese butcher and the butcher counter at a halal grocery. There are Korean and latin groceries as well as smaller markets specializing in Indian, latin, Persian and other types of foods. DC is more than the 70 square miles between the Potomac and Eastern, Western and Southern Avenues. He compares the 500 square miles of LA to DC, and finds that DC has less. That's no surprise. The region comparable to LA is the entire "inside the beltway" region of DC. That would include Del Ray, Annandale, Falls Church, Arlington, just on the Virginia side. I have a hard time agreeing that there's nothing interesting there.

Interesting points -- thanks for chiming in about this.

I had mixed feelings about Mark's piece -- I think he brought up a lot of really good points, especially if you consider the fact that he wasn't saying DC's food scene isn't good, he was saying it isn't GREAT (i.e., "world-class," whatever that means). But I also felt like some of the complaints were based on outdated notions, like the idea that it's always bad for a chef to expand beyond the single restaurant.

I'm going out of town tonight and still have a HUGE bunch of green onions from my CSA. Can I freeze them? Cook them down and extend their life? I'll be back Sunday but figured they'd be no good then!

Maybe try cooking them down with some garlic and then turning it into pesto.  May be a bit stringy but good with pasta, or Gnocchi ;-)

What's the difference between gnocchi and gnudi?

Gnudi are made with cheese and have more like a molten center of goodness.  One of my favs to make but must be made a day ahead to set properly.

And they get their name because they remind you of pasta filling without the pasta... So they're gnude.

I've got a bag of frozen blueberries that I would like to get through before going out of town. With this heat wave, I'm worried about the power going out. I've come up with pancakes, smoothies, and muffins. Can I get some new recipe ideas please to use my frozen blueberries?

You may not get past Meme's Blackberry Cobbler (which can use many kinds of fruit).

Meme's Blackberry Cobbler

But if you do, you can try Blueberry Power-Snack Turnovers or Graham Cracker Berry Crisp.

Graham Cracker Berry Crisp

I have a bag of bulk pine nuts that have been sitting in the fridge for a couple of summers now. (I accidentally poured too much from the bulk aisle). Anyway, they smell fine, so I keep using them. I shouldn't have any problems, right? Also, as a change from pesto, what else can I use them for?

I love pine nuts and use them in desserts too.  You can grind them up like almonds and make a crust with them for a tart. We made a great lemon tart at Bouchon with a pine nut crust, I think that the recipe is in the cookbook.

Do you have any suggestions for slushy but yummy drinks with no alcohol?

Actually, the Chilly Chile Paloma recipe as published is pretty good without the tequila. You may want to up the liquid ingredients ever so slightly to ensure the right texture.

Beyond that, though, so many frozen drinks are good booze-free. Get some fresh pineapple and coconut cream for piña coladas, boost the tartness with lime (or try this with coconut water instead of the fattier and sweeter cream.) Peaches are starting to be available, and they can't be wonderful blended with some ice and muddled mint. And all the summer berries right now -- yum. The main thing to keep in mind, I think (unless you have a big sweet tooth!) is to balance your flavors. Sweet fruit, boost with a tart citrus. Tarter fruit, think about other flavor notes like herbs and even smoke -- last night I grilled some serranos for a smoked chili syrup, and I think that will work nicely with several summer fruit drinks.

Loved your article. It confirmed my view that gnocchi should be served to you by a good restaurant. All those variables for a maybe-OK result at home? I admire those who can do it, of course, but I'll buy mine, the way I buy croissants.

Thanks, but I do hope you'll give them a try at home sometime. There can be light gnocchi and ones that are slightly denser, but a little attention to detail makes a huge difference.  Maybe Marjorie will start teaching classes?

I made a delicious and easy ginger sorbet in my ice cream maker for a dinner party last week, but was stumped as to how to serve it and what to serve with it. Any suggestions?

Others may have contributions on this, but if it's a nondairy sorbet, I think it would probably be amazing as a float in some prosecco or cava.

You mentioned ricotta gnocchi, which sounds wonderful for summer with a good fresh tomato sauce. Do you have a recipe for that? I might make it this weekend. Thanks.

I'll try to get Bertrand Chemel's...write to us at 

Was is the best way to store it?

In an airtight container. A glass jar with screw-top lid works well. If it's freshly roasted, you might want something that lets some of the CO2 escape while keeping oxygen out. I use this tin with a built-in valve. (But then again, I roast my own beans at home.)

OP here. It was the Falls Church farmers market. Which vendor, I don't know -- my wife bought them while I sat with the dog.

Gotcha. Thanks!

A couple weeks ago, the byproduct whey that is left after making delicious homemade ricotta was discussed. It makes great yeast bread just subbing it in for water. It even improves the tenderness and flavor of the bread ordinaire from the bread machine. It requires no baking soda or other additives. Whey stores indefinitely in the frig until needed. Use it.


I bought a package of frozen squid to make calamari but then chickened out. I don't want to deep fry it. Can I just thaw, slice, toss in flour, and pan fry?

I love braising calamari, and that may be easier to accomplish at home.  Cut into rings, then saute with some onions and garlic.  Add a can of roasted tomatoes and let simmer.  My mom always said that as far as calamari is conserned, 45 seconds or 45 minutes.  So, simmer for 45 minutes, finish with some lemon juice and chili flake.

Those gnocchi recipes look fantastic - just out of curiosity, have you ever published any gluten free gnocchi recipes? Thanks!

Yes, just today! See earlier answer. 

Good Morning! I am headed to a lake this weekend and am in charge of lunch for four women. We're planning on spending all day on a boat and will have a cooler to store the finished product, but I need an idea for something easy and delicious that is a bit more than just a sandwich (though if you have a lovely sandwich idea, I'm all ears!) Thank you!

When I have pine nuts, I go to Jeanne Lemlin's super-easy tomato pesto recipe. Mix together the following, then sprinkle with 1/3 cp toasted pine nuts before serving. Delicious!

6 ounce can tomato paste

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

1/4 finely chopped fresh basil

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

wondering your responses to the article from the magazine about what's lacking in DC's food culture. Thoughts on our food history and market availability/quality definitely fit under your expertise.

Furstenberg's essay has prompted a lot of feedback, pro and con. I thought Mark made some valid points, while glossing over areas in which his opinions were weak or essentially invalid.  (For instance, the District increasingly has a lot of obsessives, from brewers to charcuterie makers to coffee roasters; his dismissive attitude about mixologists and their contributions was reductive to the point of irrationality.) 

As for a food history, D.C. does lack one to claim as its own, though we in the Food section have talked about the District's long love affair with fried whiting. Our markets, however, continue to improve, notably with the additions of Glen's Garden Market and Smucker Farms of Lancaster County (not to mention the countless farmers markets in the area)

I bet that would be good as a tartine, maybe with some roasted red pepper.

Someone new to the raw foods diet asked if I have any "raw food cook books." I know she meant "recipe books" and that her brain, like all of ours, was frying in this heat. But it set me wondering if there are other food oxymorons, besides "jumbo shrimp" and "dairy free ice cream." Are you up for getting down with this silly query, Rangers?

Iced hot chocolate.

oven-fried. well done. 



Aren't there some italian cookies with pine nuts on the top. I love them around Christmas.

We have a couple of pine nut cookies in our database, but you may be thinking of Anna Stellato's Pignoli.

I've dutifully saved and frozen rinds from parmesan and romano. Any ideas for using them?

I like to use the rinds for stock.  It is great when making vegatarian risotto.

One aspect I agree with the DC Food culture is that there is no DC style food. That is really based on DC being placed where it was. Dc is not close enough to the Bay to have a seafood based food culture. The main ag product historically was tobacco and now the two main products are poultry and calves (not even finished cattle to create a beef based food system like say TX or Kansas City). DC really is just generic American food based on its location.

On the weekend, I grind coffee fresh and use my French press. On the weekday, I use K Cups. I do a lot of other things to help the environment that I will not enumerate here and I also know what good coffee tastes like. Sometimes there is something to be said for convenience and ease, particularly in the morning. Do what you can to help the environment or whatever other cause you deem important. But there is nothing you can do about choices other people make.

There's definitely something to be said for convenience, absolutely. And I'll be glad to see the companies that are making so much money from Americans' need for convenience start to or continue to address Americans' need for a planet that survives!

Cucumber water! Just drop some sliced or chunked cukes in water and chill. Fabulous! And sooo easy. I don't even peel the cucumbers but others might. Adding mint or maybe basil or dill might be interesting. And of course you can eat the cucumber -- I've no idea if it still has nutrients or if they move into the water but it stays crunchy.

What brand of roaster do you use? Am thinking of surprising my husband with one for his birthday. Also, I've read that while it's not a good idea to freeze roasted beans, green beans can be frozen without deterioration in quality. What do you think?

I have moved to a West Bend Poppery II air popper! On freezing green beans, there's no need to -- they last months and months at room temperature. Store em airtight, they're fine.

the cook out poster reminded me I have a bottle of pomegranate molasses in my fridge that hasn't been touched since I first used it in a recipe. Any good ideas for it's usage??

It is great in salad dressings.  The Greek salad Fattoush has it in the dressing with red wine vinegar and olive oil.  lends a fruity sweetness.

Could it be just a coincidence that this was the subject of the Post Points tip today?

Do you have a bottle of pomegranate molasses in your pantry or refrigerator? If not, you’re missing out. The sweet-tart reduction of pomegranate juice or seeds is a staple at Mediterranean markets, and it’s becoming more widely available in larger grocery stores. Brands vary in tartness, so It’s a good idea to try different ones.


If you do have some on hand and need recipe ideas, this link will take you to 16 of them in our Recipe Finder database:



And here’s a simple idea to kick things off, from Mollie Katzen’s upcoming “The Heart of the Plate”: Stir together ¼ cup pomegranate molasses and 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice. Use as a sauce for hot or room-temperature vegetables and grains, tofu, cheese, burgers and fruit. It’ll keep for 3 months in an airtight container at room temperature. 

I picked up some lime basil at my farmers market recently, which I'd never seen before or even heard of. True to its name, it's a sweet basil with a definite lime quality. I'm thinking of using it in a cocktail tonight. Since lime and basil reminds me of Thai cooking, I'm leaning towards something with ginger liqueur, coconcut (maybe coconut water) and rum or gin. Have you ever used this herb before? Perhaps Carrie might have some thoughts on using it in a drink. Thanks.

Carrie should def answer, but I'll tell you that I ran into some lemon basil when I was in Maine last year, and ended up using it to flavor peach preserves. They turned out beautifully, I must say. I just steeped a big branch of the herb (it was pretty hardy) in the fruit/sugar mixture after heating it up and taking it off the heat. Left it in for an hour, pulled it out and proceeded. Perfumed everything.

I like those ideas -- maybe some ginger liqueur like Domaine de Canton, too? You also might try using it as a garnish for something more savory with a cucumber slice (cut long and doubling as a stirrer) and tomato juice. Todd Thrasher's tomato water Bloody Mary is hard to improve upon, but I think adding some new herbal garnishes could make for an interesting twist with it. 

My salivary glands were activated just reading this name, but when I clicked on the recipe I was shocked at the amount of sugar in it. Why any sweetening at all, much less so much sugar?

Do you mean in the dressing? It will balance out the lime juice and jalapeno. Also keep in mind that, as the intro says, you may have leftover dressing, so not all that sugar will be going into the final product.

What kind of sauce would you recommend?

yum, I love broccoli rabe.  I would do a spicy sausage and tomato sauce.  The heat and acid help balance the bitterness of the broccoli rabe.

Would love a recipe for crab cake!

I don't have a "recipe" for you but I like to put greek yogurt instead of mayo in mine.  It adds a tangyness and is a little lighter.

Here's a good one: Summer Crab Cakes.

You can buy re-usable cups and use your own ground coffee. They take a bit of experimentation to get how you want them you wind up easy coffee with no extra plastic waste!

Right -- I have seen these. Reusable strikes me as the way to go, for anyone concerned about the environment.

I have been forced to live with the philosophy of "stained means it's loved" out of necessity, too, but MAN would I love it to just be clean. Oven method for black beans is wonderful, but I can no longer serve anything else outta that pot to people without getting looks :( I've tried Bar Keeper's friend, and not only does it NOT work for this but I really don't wanna risk ruining the enamel over the issue. Surely there is something that will work out there; this has to be a major issue and these are popular cookware items. The only thing that moves the stain is the flexible scrape of my wet fingernail, but it's just not possible to clean the whole thing this way. :[

Try the bleach soaking!

what do you do with it? thanks

I follow Pati Jinich's lead, and pickle it

Chayote squash, also called mirliton or vegetable pear, tastes like a combination of zucchini and cucumber. Its slight sweetness and firmness make this a light, bright salad to serve alongside chicken. More often these days, limited amounts of it can be found in the produce section of large supermarkets. Choose chayote with smooth, unwrinkled skin.

I really want to like okra, especially since it's going to be appearing weekly in my CSA basket for the next couple months, but the only way I've found I like it is in gumbo - otherwise the slime gets to me. Help, please?

At the risk of sounding like a "Portlandia" sketch: Pickle it!

You don't *have* to have a new K-cup each time you make coffee. I use something called K-Caps that I got online; they are basically replacement lids for the k-cups and last 10-20 or more times before the filter starts to unglue from the cup base. They get stained over time but the dishwasher cleans them like new. The main trick is to line up the hole already punctured in the bottom of a K-Cup with the needle in the bottom of the Keurig. Otherwise you will have coffee dripping out like a leaky shower.

Joe nailed it on crepe cooking on medium heat. Also, you don't have to necessarily turn them at all. If cooked until the top surface is dry, that puppy is done. Just slide it out of the well oiled pan. The top surface of the crepe will receive the filling and be rolled or folded out of sight. Dry is done. The $22 blue steel Du Buyer crepe pan at Sur La Table is a reliable workhorse for a couple fried eggs, a single burger, and even crepes!

That's true! Thanks much.

Hi there - thought your guest might know the best sources for good but inexpensive olive oil. Rodmans? A Litteri? I go through a lot of the stuff and Whole Wallet, er, I mean Foods, is not the best option.

I buy mine in bulk for the restaurant.  It comes in an eco friendly box, and funny enough it can be found on  a lot of times they offer free shipping too.

I just got "50 Shades of Kale" which has tons of fun recipes for everything from apps to desserts. I can't wait for winter and my CSA greens!

Thanks for the feature on gnocchi. I grew up eating gnocchi, before it was so popular, thanks to my northern Italian roots. We boiled the potatoes, riced them, rolled the dough and cut 1-inch gnocchi (no spoons, forks, grooves, etc.). We serve them with a simple sauce of simmered butter and onions with plenty of parm. cheese - probably because my ancestors couldn't afford more complicated sauce ingredients! But, it's so good!


Va bene! Did you boil them skin-on?

It's a George Foreman grill -- indoor, electric. It worked without problem until now. But most unfortunately, some spoiled chicken thighs were partly-grilled on it, until the smell indicated they belonged in some far-away dump instead. Worse, areas of meat stuck to the "non-stick" surface and won't wipe away. Ugh. What's the best way to get them off without damaging the grill? It doesn't come apart so the dishwasher isn't an option. Thanks!

May I suggest you throw that contraption in the trash and buy a real grill?


Okay, sorry: Try spraying some olive or vegetable oil on the grill and use a small brush to loosen the meat. I would then suggest a thorough cleaning.

Hi Jim, Our paper recently had an article about grilled nachos. They called for a gas grill...which we do not own! Is it possible to do nachos with wood or charcoal, and if so, how? Thanks! Also, loved the article about "Greekaque" today. I can't wait for our next visit to DC to try it out.

    Glad you liked the "Greekacue" story. If you make it to Kapnos, I'll be interested in hearing what you think. 

     As for nachos over a fire of charcoal or wood, yes, you can do that. You put the tortillas at the bottom of an aluminum drip pan, layer on your other ingredients, then put the pan on the cool side of an indirect fire. Cook for around 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

      You can also grill tortillas to crisp them up and get a nice smoky flavor. But I'm going to use that as a teaser, as my August column will be on grilling bread and what to do with it, and tortillas may well be included. 

It'll only get rid of about a cup of peas, but this Pea Brushcetta With Ricotta and Mint looks fabulous. Haven't tried it, and I want to.

I tried, I really did. Garlic scapes arrived in my weekly produce box and I gave them my all with a pesto. It was so disgusting we threw it out. And we never throw out food! What on earth do you do with these things? Or do you think I just got an unusually strong batch?

So it was the flavor, not the texture, that bothered you? I have to say, I'm not a huge scape fan -- I know, the horrors! But my objection is to that tough, fibrous texture, which seems to survive most pesto making. If it's the strength in flavor that bugs you, I think you could just cut down on the amount of the scapes and combine them with, say, parsley in a pesto recipe.

"DC really is just generic American food based on its location." That's an interesting observation and, depending on what you consider "American" food, you may or may not agree with it. If you think of America as the melting pot country, representing all sorts of backgrounds and ethnicities, then "American food" should represent that as well. Thus, when I look at D.C.'s varied food scene and see a diverse landscape without a dominant single "culture," I actually think that's what America's capital's food scene should be.

Thanks! Interesting thought...

On her blog,, blogger Valerie Lugonja mentions buying essence violette at G. Detou, a shop in Paris. She said it was divine and also mentioned using cassis, lavender, and some other essences. What could this be used for? Is it available for purchase in the US (I live in Richmond and have never seen it, but I haven't been looking, either)?

Some of these essences are great additions to bitters and tinctures for cocktails. Creme de Violette is a liqueur used in some classic cocktails (in small doses -- it's quite sweet and floral) and the violette essence might be good to play with in those. You might check out Brad Parsons book on bitters for some other ideas -- but I suspect there are culinary uses in sauces and glazes and such as well.

I'm doing a small dinner party tonight, mostly from Post recipes: Tom's Blue Cheese Straws with the margaritas, then Icy-Spicy Watermelon Soup, Lemon-and-Honey Flavored Chicken, plus my own salad and Jacques Pepin's Rustic Peach Galette. Breaking Tom's rule as I've only ever made the galette before. Thanks for the great recipes and wish me luck!

Nice menu. We'll be right over your shoulder. Tom's advice is sound, but I have to say, I like a challenge. If it's an understanding group o' friends, they won't mind being a test audience. 

I like to serve Spaghetti Bolognese when I have friends over for dinner. Could you recommend an appetizer to serve before the pasta? Thanks!

I would go with something like this, the Early Summer Melon and Arugula Salad with Shaved Red Onion.

The newer Vue cups from Keurig are recyclable. A bit more expensive too...

I use the reusable cups, too, and it's a great, guilt-free compromise. Fresh coffee in every cup, just a minute to dump the old grounds and rinse. It did take time to get the mixture right since I like strong (but not bitter) coffee.

I wonder how different this will be in a decade or two when some of the recent (e.g. since the 80's) immigration waves will have had a chance to better define our city? One thing I've noticed as a lifelong Washingtonian is that the city really didn't become a city in and of itself (beyond being the place where government lived) until sometime in the 1970's/80's - Then we started having significant growth of new businesses/industry and waves of immigration - particularly from Central America, Asia and Africa. I think it will take some time for this to mix in with our overall culture to create a "Washington Food Scene" similar to places like New York, San Francisco, Chicago and/or New Orleans where they've had generations to develop their food scenes.

I have some open bottles of wine, more than half full, mostly red. It seemed too much to throw out, but we didn't get around to drinking it. Does it become vinegar as it sits on the shelf? Is it ok to keep it around and cook with it? I'm thinking I might treat it like balsamic and make a syrup to go with berries or plums... Thoughts? Suggestions?

To get the best vinegar results, you'll need to do a little more work. At least getting the wine out of the bottle and into a more appropriate container. Many vinegar-making folks also recommend getting a mother. You'll find more tips in this piece from Paula Wolfert and this article from the San Francisco Chronicle.

If you want to make a syrup, have a go at Mulled Red Wine Syrup.

Mulled Red Wine Syrup

I've also used it in curry to good effect.

A relative whose husband grew way too much okra in his garden would slice it crosswise as thin as possible (think dime-like), dip the rounds in corn meal and then pan-fry in oil. She froze the extras in plastic freezer bags, then when she wanted to serve (e.g., in the dead of winter, when we could all used a taste of summer!), would dump them into a DRY frying pan to reheat and make crispy again (since they already contained enough oil to keep from sticking).

I don't get it. Having coffee variety just isn't worth the second-rate results. Watery, too. The zillion-choice item at breakfast should be cereals, not coffee. You kids get off of my lawn right now!


Does Northern Italian gnocchi differ from Southern Italian gnocchi?

From what I understand, potato gnocchi's pretty much the same. But gnocchi can be made out of ingredients, like the fab gnocchi alla Romana (semolina flour gnocchi) served in Rome and done so very well by chef Mike Friedman at Red Hen in Bloomingdale. 

I made raw garlic scape pesto once and hated it too (too strong, and this is a garlic lover). But roasting them in a oven first mellowed them out nicely and made for really good pesto.

Great to hear. I'm sure it softened them, too, so sounds like it might solve my issue as well! Thanks much.

If you really givith a darnith, OxyClean lifts food stains out of enameled pans and off Corian and fiberglass. Let it soak overnight and rinse well. It lifts out pigments chlorine bleach ignores.

Litteri. Definitely Litteri.

I bought several containers of hummous (not sure if that's the correct spelling but I mean chick-pea dip, not fertilizer!) in various flavors including spinach-artichoke and roasted pepper, but it's all very disappointing. Should I add olive oil and lemon juice until it tastes good, or give it away?

The lemon and olive oil could help. So could a few dashes of za'atar or paprika or even a paprika-spiked butter.

And garlic. And more chickpeas. And some tahini. Wait -- you might as well make it from scratch!

Hm, one drop of honey would do that. I curse the balsamic vinegar fad because it's led to so much more sweet in the savory.

Sorry! That's the recipe, but certainly you could experiment with the dressing.

Yes, the beet gnocchi was from the feature with Batali and they were so beautiful in the photos. Unfortunately, mine weren't a nice purple because I mistakenly used striped beets and got the shreds a little too brown (so they were a nice taupe color). Despite that, they were quite tasty, and I gave the ones that didn't fall apart a little extra body with a quick saute in butter before saucing them.

That saute option is a nice way to save gnocchi that emerges from the cooking water a little bit too soft.

Hi Free Rangers! What a week. I was so down Monday night I didn't even feel like eating, let alone cooking. Anyway, I sat down at my easel and ended up drawing what I think is a wonderful pencil sketch of Joe! It totally inspired me to get up and go make the vegetarian crepe ratatouille which I had been looking forward to for a few days. Let me just say it was wonderful. One of my good friends stopped by and thankfully I had enough for him as well. I can not even begin to express how excited I am to try my hands at gnocchi. What an exciting culinary adventure. Definitely Friday night. Thanks for everything!

You're gonna have to share that sketch with us! 

I'm speechless. A rarity.

What is the brand?

Costa, from California.  Like all great things=-)

I don't like deep frying either. My favorite calamari recipe is this one from Mario Batali.  It's delicious and not hard to make, though the caper berries are not always super easy to find (caper berries, not capers).

Any recommendations for a good blueberry vinaigrette? I've come so close to perfecting one using white balsamic vinegar, but something is still not quite what I'm looking for.

I'm curious: What are you using for an emulsifier? Egg? Mustard? Honey? If you want something with a more piquant edge, go with Dijon mustard; if something sweeter, go with honey.

Poppy seeds are really good in fruit based vinaigrettes too.

When I was visiting relatives in Calheta, on the island of Sao Jorge in the Azores, I attended a huge community feed where rolled kale ("couves") was served as a side dish. Apparently the leaves had been de-stemmed, then several were laid on top of one another for each roll, rolled up jelly-roll style and tied, cooked in broth, and finally cut into rounds (with strings removed) and arrayed attractively on large platters.


Gin and Tonic!

Steam lots of shelled peas in advance, then chill. Add chopped green onions, a little chopped celery, mix in mayonnaise and (preferably fresh) dill, S&P to taste. Chill, then serve.


Currently eating this while reading your chat! Thanks for the recipe last week, it is wonderful! I am eating over brown rice instead, but this recipe is big enough for a whole week of lunches, and something like less than $10. For 5 meals. I'm not ashamed to say that I may be making it again next week!

Great to hear!

Marcella Hazan has a wonderful squid braise that chatter might like. Basically you saute parsley and garlic, then add wine, then put in the squid. Wait 10 mins, put in chopped tomatos and slice up potatoes. Braise for another half hour or so. Salt and pepper, maybe oregano or marjoram. oooeee!

Can some of the flour be replaced with whole wheat flour, or the pastry level whole wheat flour?

Honestly I have never tried.  If you are doing it to be healthy I think that you are better off using regular flour, there is so little in it and it is just better.  

If you eat red meat, can you still use it in the sauce, e.g. when braising? I'm thinking pot roast.

Every container of heavy or whipping cream at my local supermarket this morning was ultrapasteurized, including the ones labeled "organic." Any idea why they're doing this? Do the process have any effect on how well the cream will whip up?

The ultra pasteurization increases the shelf life. The process might affect the volume of its whipped state slightly -- and it does take a little longer to beat into peaks. But you can compensate for that by making sure the cream is very cold to start, and whipped in a chilled bowl

I'd like to second that emotion. Get to know a wine retailer or two. Give them feedback on their recommendations. Some people like new world styles. I like old world styles. If you are a frequent enough customer, the retailer will pick up on that and show you things you did not know existed that you really like.

I got it at the fab kitchen store in Old town Alexandria...actually saw it, unused in my pantry last night and remembered I need to get on that. It was pricey and they had a bunch of different essences in stock.

La Cuisine! I've gotten other essences there. Amazing. My favorite was a blood orange one. I kept throwing that into everything (especially desserts and drinks).

I was thinking of making veggie sushi (never tried this before!) for dinner tonight since it' so hot outside. Could you please help me make the rice? I bought sushi rice and a bottle of rice vinegar. I remember reading something about fanning the rice? What are good veggie combinations? Thanks!

Here's Morimoto's recipe for sushi rice from Food & Wine. I'm running out of time to help out on veggie toppings, but I'd just suggest that you experiment and see what works. That's half the fun.

I'm a fan of Smoke Signals and enjoy the recipes Jim Shahin provides. I wonder what ideas your resident grilling expert has for the engaged couple going to visit their family/friends. Thanks.

      Thanks for the props. There are so many grilling recipes. I guess I might suggest that they start with the link on the WaPoFood Web site.

       After that, they could do a search in the Smoke Signals archive

       As for specific ideas, they mentioned chicken. A couple of days ago, I made what I called Chicken Three Ways: six bone-in breasts - two marinated for four hours in fresh squeezed lemon juice, garlic, and rosemary (not mine, but good:; a second in a jerk sauce (I just used Walker's jerk sauce); the third in a dry rub of salt, black pepper, onion powder, thyme, rosemary, sage, a little ancho powder (use about 2 tablespoons salt and about 1 tablespoon of everything else, except for ancho powder - 1 teaspoon; you will have leftover rub for another time).

      They're extremely easy and take only about a half-hour. 

Well, you've brushed off our excess flour then dropped us into a pot of salted boiling water, then cooked us until we bobbed to the surface, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, and thanks to chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley, Carrie Allan and Jim Shahin for helping us handle them.

Now for the giveaway books. The chatter who make the joke about Marjorie from Ripple not wanting ripples in her gnocchi will get "Franny's: Simple Seasonal Italian." And I'm sorry, I can't help it -- the chatter who's throwing a Washington Post dinner party MUST have "The Washington Post Cookbook." Right?

Send your mailing info to Becky at, and we'll get you your books.

Until next week, happy cooking, eating and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is editor of the Food section; joining us today are deputy Food editor Bonnie Benwick, staff writer Tim Carman, Spirits columnist Carrie Allan and editorial aide Becky Krystal. Guest: Marjorie Meek-Bradley, executive chef at Ripple and gnocchi expert.
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