Free Range on Food: Seviche, sandwiches and a pig-to-table project

Jul 18, 2012

This week we share some easy, refreshing summer "cooking" ideas, with a variety of sandwiches and seviches. Plus, talk to the writer who is raising three pigs destined for the dinner table.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Good afternoon all! Hope you're cool and eating something even cooler...seviche comes to mind (yesssss, we meant to spell it with an "s"),  thanks to Tim Carman's Immigrant's Table column. Joe Yonan's here to talk sandwiches and Tamar Haspel, who I have a girl/editor crush on -- there, I said it! -- is here to talk backyard pigs; if  you haven't yet read the first of her Pig to Table Project articles you're in for a thoughtful ride. Becky Krystal, a k a Farmers Market Roundup queen, is answering questions as well. Maybe Jim Shahin and/or Jason Wilson will hop on.


Chat giveways: Books for two chatters -- "The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook" (source of today's Dinner in Minutes") and the "Asian Flavors Diabetes Cookbook," which Jane Touzalin reviewed. Winners announced at the end of the hour. Ready?


We're heading to Lancaster PA this weekend to celebrate some family birthdays. A month or two ago someone here mentioned an inn in PA Dutch country that had a great organic restaurant, and an organic farm market shop in the back. I can't find the old thread. Help! Does someone know this restaurant and farm shop?

Ah, yes, you must be referring to Sheppard Mansion. David Hagedorn wrote about it last year.

Sheppard Mansion

Great place to eat on a chilly night. Went last winter.

Hello, Rangers! I'm not sure why I'm paranoid about my pickles but I thought I'd send in a question for peace of mind. I followed the recipe and processed the jars in boiling water as directed. The lids all seem to have sealed, and none of them are still loose on the top. The pickles should be safe, right?

Sleep easy. Pickles are one of the foods that are quite safe, because they're high in acid and therefore inhospitable to botulism.  (Canned foods with pH below 4.6 are in that category.)  In the UK, they don't even bother with a water bath for pickles.  

What are the health issues around eating seviche? I understand that the acid "cooks" the protein in the fish, but does it also kill microorganisms as real cooking does? Are there any precautions one should take? This question would also apply (even more) to sashimi, but I don't eat that, nor do I eat raw oysters or clams any more.

Of course. There will always be health concerns when dealing with nearly raw fish. This is when you must trust your chef to follow proper handling procedures and trust the fishmongers to do that same thing.  It's all about keeping fish at the right temperature from water to plate.


If you're the type who doesn't trust a restaurant or fishmonger, I'd recommend staying away from seviche. At least the kind of seviche that's only cured for a short period.

They also have a fab patio in the back open during the summer. Wine specials back there on either Thurs or Fri evenings (can't remember which).

I'm heading to a BBQ next weekend where the focus is on beer (not that I can really enjoy much of it since I'm 7 months pregnant). I'm tasked with making a dessert and I was hoping you'd have a suggestion for a dessert that would pair well with beer. I'm thinking maybe something of the salty-sweet variety? Thanks!

I love gingery things with beer -- sometimes there's even beer in the recipe.  Gingerbread's perfect, although it's not exactly summery.  

This Chocolate Coconut Porter Cake is made with beer, and we love it.  For pairing, you might want to think about simple desserts that use crushed pretzels and/or chocolate peanut butter: we've got a butterscotch pretzel pudding and pretzel wands in our Recipe Finder. Check 'em out!

I am hesitant to make my own seviche since I once had food poisoning from a delicious Peruvian restaurant in SF. I definitely would order and eat it again, but afraid of making it make it myself and making others sick. Is this a silly fear? Any fail-proof recipes to start with?

It's not really about the recipes. It's about the handling of the fish. Do you have a fishmonger you trust? If so, you're halfway there. The FDA has many good tips on how to purchase good seafood.


Once you have a fresh, quality fish, you can prepare your own seviche at home. Just make sure to keep the fish cool during the preparation. Add ice cubes to the marinade if you're in doubt.


Then enjoy.

Hello! I am a member of a dinner club, and I'm assigned a side dish to bring to next week's event. The theme of the dinner is dishes that were inspired by a book. The recipe doesn't have to be in the book, but the book needs to have inspired the dish somehow. It can be any book - adult or children's, fiction or non, etc. I just can't think of anything to bring. Do you have any ideas? I believe the main course will be Italian.

You can come to your own conclusions about why, but the first thought that came to my mind was something with marmalade, a la Paddington Bear. Hey, we even have a "Harry Potter"-inspired recipe for Butterbeer. A few more suggestions here from the Kitchn. There are so many possibilities out there -- I can see where you'd be struggling where to start!

Chatters, other suggestions?

That recipe sounds so good I want to weep! And the variations are endless. But the calorie count and sodium content would make it a once-in-a-great-while indulgence. I'm trying to think of ways to cut down both, without resorting to reduced-fat "cheese". There appear to be various ways of curing kimchi -- Joe, did you make an effort to use one of them (because if so I'm doomed)? Any suggestions for high-flavor cheeses so I could just cut down the amounts?

Don't cry for me! OK, go ahead and cry, if they are tears of happiness/hunger. Honestly, IMO the best way to cut down on the calories would be to make it an open-faced sandwich. That is, lose one of the pieces of bread. Turn it into bruschetta, and broil it so the cheese melts on top. If you did that, you could cut down on the cheese some, too, without any problems. I tried testing this with half that much cheese, but in a grilled sandwich it just doesn't work. No goo, you know?

As for the sodium, well, after I read this piece recently, I stopped worrying about it so much.

But I like to make my own kimchi, and I use 1 tablespoon of salt for what ends up being 4 cups -- plus 2 teaspoons each of oyster sauce and fish sauce, both of which contain lots of sodium. But  much of the initial salt gets drained out along with the liquid I have you squeeze out of the cabbage before combining it with all the good stuff that leads to kimchi.

Cheese has sodium in it, too, as does bread. So you'd lower the sodium, too, if you did my open-faced strategy.

Last weekend, I found a plastic container in my freezer with about a cup of frozen yellow liquid. I defrosted it, and it turned out to be some sort of batter - pancake batter? I made pancakes out of it, and they were edible but not that great. It may have been tempura batter from a couple of years ago. The moral of the story is: label and DATE those containers.

You are very brave. And yes, your advice is noted.

Yes! Jim "Smoke Signals" Shahin's in the house.

I'm a long-time fan of the food section, but this summer it has been truly and consistently outstanding, above and beyond the usual. Thanks so much for the information and inspiration...exactly what I look for (and rarely find) in a newspaper food section. Please keep it up!

Much appreciated.

I've become slightly obsessed with tracking down Dave McIntyre's Sauvignon Blanc recommendations from last week's column, but I'm totally stumped by his favorite - the Domain Roblin Les Ammonites 2009. It's nowhere to be found in MD, and can't be shipped here (per my favorite wine store) - Dave, any other suggestions for a Sauvignon Blanc loving Marylander?

Dave says:


Your favorite wine store can order this wine from The Country Vintner, which currently has it in stock. They can call Matthew Tucker at 800-365-9463 to place the order. He tells me these stores have carried previous vintages of this wine: Wine Source in Baltimore, Wine Cellars of Annapolis, Wishing Well in Easton, State Line up north, either of the Bin stores (Baltimore or Annapolis), Decanter Fine Wine in Columbia and in Gaithersburg.  

I get rather distressed when readers tell me their retailers won't pick up the phone and call the wholesalers listed in my review. Simple customer service. They would rather you go to another store to spend your money. Then they complain to me that I recommend wines they don't have, even though the recommendation brings thirsty customers into their store.


I very much enjoyed reading Tamar's article. Do you think there is any chance you will grow so attached to the pigs that you will wind up not sending them to slaughter?

I would say that there is no chance of that.  Pigs are too big, and too expensive to feed, to be pets.  I know it's going to be hard to slaughter them, but we are absolutely committed to doing just that.  It's going to be a hard day, though.

Every year thousands of people get pigs for the first time in their backyards. Not just adults, but children who get pigs as 4-H projects. There are tremendous resources from extension and 4-H dealing with proper ways to select pigs, raise pigs, house pigs, feed pigs and house pigs. Yet the author never mentions this high quality and easily available resource.

I'm glad 4H is so involved.  And, if I do write more of a how-to-get-started piece, I will certainly mention it.  Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

For the person coming to Lancaster County, try Ma(i)son (downtown) or John J. Jeffries at the Arts Hotel. Both restaurants source their ingredients/menu items from local farms and purveyors.

Is there a chance you might do a focus piece for home cooks on plating food? America's Test Kitchen did one recently that left a lot to be desired. Since taking photos of food is becoming more and more common, some tips on how to make that wonderful dish look as good as it tastes would be helpful. Thanks!

I'm sure Bonnie will address this more directly, but I wanted to add more on thoughts about this, in regards to today's seviche article. 


Personally, I had many questions about how to plate it. Do I use all the marinade on the finished plate? Half of it? None of it? Do I squeeze fresh lime juice to accompany the fish? (None of these questions, of course, begins to cover the Great Garnish Debate, which is another topic with seviche.) Ultimately, I learned that "cooked" seviche should be served with an equal about of marinade or tigre de leche. So if you have 6 ounces of fish, you should include 6 ounces of liquid.

We could tackle that, sure. Do you mean for looks,  or the right way to present certain dishes, such as seviche?

Got a good one? I didn't see anything in the recipe finder. I'm looking for simple and traditional. Thank you!

Hmm. Search as two words: This link gets you to 33 recipes (some of which are for dishes that use corn bread, and some, admittedly, don't have any corn bread in them). Try either the bacon cheddar kind or this Indian corn bread (you can pop it in the oven).  (In truth, a box of Jiffy Corn Bread Mix is always good to have on hand. I add fresh kernels and use buttermilk.)

just want to say that I love your blog! I have been reading it for some time now, so when I saw the name "Tamar" in the WaPo food section, I knew it *had* to be you! Thanks for your well-written accounts of life and food!

Why thank you!  Although it's only fair to point out that there is another outstanding food writer named Tamar -- Tamar Adler.  You might enjoy her, too.  But definitely please keep reading me ...

I'm looking for a "snappy" recipe/recipes for watermelon salad.

By snappy, I assume you mean fast. This Tomato Watermelon Salad is about as quick as you can get. And here's the similarly named Watermelon and Tomato Salad.

Watermelon and Tomato Salad

Our database has a few other recipes too.

Nothing like a power disaster to force a freezer clean-out and a fresh start. So, now that we're all recovered and moved back in: What's the first thing you reached for to save? What's the thing you were saddest to lose? When I was packing the cooler in the dark before heading for the inlaws', the first stuff I grabbed was the buffalo osso bucco I've been saving, and the 8 quarts of homemade stock. What I missed, and mourned when I discovered it days later, was the two ice cube trays of demiglace I'd labored to make a month before. Oh well ....

Most of us here lucked out, but I know Stephanie Sedgwick, our Nourish columnist, was unhappy to have to toss a lot of prepped meals and stocks and sauces. Normally my house does lose power, and I fill a cooler with ice or dry ice and save the meats and frozen tomato sauce.


RIP demiglace, for it is a labor. :(


We're thinking of keeping a power outage guide on our homepage. What info would you like to see, other than this?

Our power was out for four days. We had to throw away several dozen eggs from my husband's grandparents' farm. It was almost enough to make me weep.

I didn't have a whole lot of other stuff I felt compelled to grab and save, but the first day without power when I figured we'd be OK for a while (ha!) if I only opened the fridge once for snacks, I grabbed salsa and this amazing pistachio cream I recently bought at Eataly.

When we lose power, I just keep the freezer door closed and hope.  We have 2 freezers in the basement, and I figure I've got at least 24 hours, maybe 48, before I have to worry.  But I'm Type B.

I love the garlic pistachios from the French Quarter in NOLA. But it is a long trip & they are a bit pricey. Can these be made at home? I picture the process as soaking in a garlic bath of some sort and then roasting to dry. Would this work? Do you need raw nuts to start with and can they be obtained, if so?

Here's the only way I know how to do it: Boil shelled pistachios, saltwater to cover and smashed garlic cloves in a saucepan until the water evaporates. (Watch near the end so the nuts don't burn.) Then spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees, stirring every once in a while, until they're light golden. They should be infused with a nice salt and garlic buzz. Not sure how much salt and garlic to use; experiment and see how much suits your taste. Other chatters? Any experience with this?

HI there, I'd like to try spatchcocking (sp?) a chicken on my gas grill, not exactly sure about the details (how high should heat be? should I brine the chicken first? Do you ever turn the bird?). I feel pretty confident about my ability to actually flatten the bird, but any hints, too, are appreciated. (And when all is said and done, is it worth it to try this?)

Fully endorse! Sure, brine first, but make sure the skin's nice and dry so it'll crisp up.  Best to use a chicken that's not so huge (4 lbs max). Medium-high heat (450) will be fine; yes, turn the bird a few times so it cooks evenly. Remember this method cooks the bird much faster. You'll want to use kitchen shears to cut along both sides of the backbone; remove that thing and save it for making stock.  Turn the bird skin side up; use the heels of your hands to press down/flatten the bird esp in the breast area. You might want to use a sharp knife to make slits at the thigh/drumstick joint for even cooking as well. Report back.

Sandwiches are a great summertime meal. I'm looking for some tips on proper seasoning for a sandwich. The most I ever do is add some pepper. Are there any spices you recommend to add some zip to a boring ham & cheese? thanks!

You gotta use some good condiments. That's the trick. And you can make them yourself. The sandwich I scarfed down before logging onto the chat was this: two slices multigrain bread, thick sliced garden tomato, handful of massaged kale (which I'm sure will prompt people to ask another question!), fontina cheese, sliced hard-cooked egg, and ... poblano tapenade. The latter is a recipe I'm testing for my next cookbook, and it's killer. 

The point is, put something pungent on that sandwich -- a pickle, some kimchi (like in today's Grilled Kimcheese), or at least some lemon juice and olive oil (like in today's Ricotta, Zucchini and Radicchio Sandwich). One of my favorite on-the-fly condiments consists of peppadews (those sweet-sour-spicy beauties) chopped up and mixed with a little mayo.

I am partial to caramelized onions. I'd put them on almost any sandwich, assuming I don't just eat them on their own first.

Caramelized Onions

Any good ideas for stuffing zucchini for a light summer meal? Have any of you tried cooking these on a grill?

      I just returned from a trip to the Finger Lakes in upstate NY where I had an amazing Italian meal in a small town called Hammonsport. Here is why I tell you that: they  whisper-grilled thick rounds of zucchini, which made me reconsider how I grill a) zucchini and b) vegetables. There was no char, no grill marks, just an absolute lovely tenderness flavored with a light charcoal taste. 

      I absolutely love grilled zucchini. Generally, I prefer them as thick rounds or long planks, because I really like the flavor of the zucchini itself. But, yes, you can stuff them and grill them. Here is one idea: Remove the pulp so that you have about a 1/4 inch shell. Chop up the pulp and cook over medium heat with some olive oil and diced onion in a pan. Add a little garlic. When soft, add some bread crumbs and dried oregano, a little crushed dried red pepper , and a sprinkling of salt. Cook until blended, about a minute or two. Remove from the heat. Stir in some shredded mozzarella cheese. Spoon the mixture into your zuchini shells. Top with some grated Parmesan. Then grill them, covered, over medium heat for about 8 minutes. Serve with a nice white for a light summer meal. 

Where I live, garlic scapes came in season only recently. I am now the happy owner of a big bag of scapes. I looked on the WP recipe database but came up with no recipes using scapes. Is it really true that there are no recipes for them in the Food section's recipes database?

Although we don't have recipes just for garlic scapes, we do have a couple of recipes that suggest scapes as a substitute for another ingredient. They are Potato and Feathery Green Salad and Ginger-White Bean Salad. The scapes will be great with those. The bean salad looks particularly refreshing right now:

1) I know that you can freeze flour that you aren't going to use anytime soon. How should you thaw it then before using? On the counter/in the fridge? Just wondering if freezing and then thawing makes a difference in how the flour measures out. 2) I have become used to lightly toasting any nuts to bring out their flavor before using them in a baking recipe. But now I've used several recipes that haven't noted that the nuts should be toasted first, so it makes me wonder if I can skip that step altogether. Thanks in advance for your help!

Since it's useful to have ingredients at room temperature for a lot of baking, just scoop out what you need and put it on the counter.  The only reason to defrost in the fridge is to inhibit the growth of micro-organisms, and there shouldn't be any dangerous ones in flour.  As for nuts, it's sheerly a matter of taste.  Toasting them gives them a nice crispness, but you may not care, or even notice, in some baked goods.  Try it both ways, and see which you prefer.

I use flour for making pie crust straight from the freezer; for lots of pastry recipes you'll want all the ingredients chilled. I think it's best to to toast nuts just about all the time for baking recipes, as it releases their oils (flavor). Even if the recipe doesn't call for it, you could do it. For some cookie recipes, I remember an "up your game" tip from my pal chef Susan Callahan, where she not only toasts the nuts, but does so in a bit of butter. Awesome, remarkable difference in the cookies we tested.

If I bring home some meat from the grocery store and put it right into the freezer, then pull it out a week later to defrost in the fridge for a day or two, so it's completely unfrozen, can I put it back in the freezer to use another day? I occasionally decide to cook x (meat dish) then get busy and don't have the time. Mind you, the meat has been either frozen or at fridge temp the entire time. Love the chats!

The experts at the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline say:

If raw or cooked food is thawed in the refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze it without cooking or heating, although there may be a loss of quality due to the moisture lost through defrosting. After cooking raw foods which were previously frozen, it is safe to freeze the cooked foods. And if previously cooked foods are thawed in the refrigerator, you may refreeze the unused portion. If you purchase previously frozen meat, poultry or fish at a retail store, you can refreeze if it has been handled properly.

Here's a little more info.

One reason I stay away from making many sandwiches for myself is because as a single person, I can't make it through a loaf of good quality bread very quickly. I freeze my regular PB&J bread, but don't feel like rustic bread keeps as well in the freezer. Any suggestions? I'd love to make more veggie sandwiches for lunches.

I think rustic bread freezes very well, actually -- but it's best in bigger pieces. So whole loaves work well, which doesn't help you very much, does it? But also, halves work well. Just make sure to tightly wrap in plastic wrap and then in foil. You don't want air getting to any of that bread, particularly the exposed cut side. Then toast it, of course.

The other thing you can do is look for smaller loaves, of course. Some of the bakers at farmers markets sell those, which is nice for us single folks. In that same vein, given the whole-loaf idea, you could buy rustic rolls and freeze those individually. They thaw out very nicely, and make for good sandwiches.

I notice the note for the corn saute says that a well-seasoned cast iron pan is perfect for that type of dish. How do I know it's well-seasoned? I heard that it basically makes the pan non-stick. I do everything right, never use soap, re-season it sometimes anyway, but to call my pan non-stick would be a stretch. It still looks like it did when I got it 5 years ago.

Well, I may catch heck for this, but I think saying the pan is nonstick is a little bit of an exaggeration, especially when you compare it to modern nonstick pans. Don't expect that, without oil, an egg will slide across the cast-iron pan like it's a skater on ice or anything. Once it's nicely seasoned, the finish will be a rich, black color, and by keeping it up and using a little oil it will be pretty nonstick, indeed. But you know, I don't want it to be completely nonstick, because then things don't brown as well.

Loved your seviche piece today. My favorite kind is the Peruvian shrimp seviche in a tomato base -- do you have a recipe to share for that type? The shrimp is lightly cooked and the base is almost gazpacho-like. My Peruvian friends always serve it with saltines.

I don't personally have such a recipe. But check out chef Douglas Rodriguez's "The Great Ceviche Book," which includes a great many recipes, some of which wander far from traditional Peruvian seviche.

You just gave me (1) dinner in minutes for tonight, (2) an focus for raiding my (mainly herb) garden, (3) a reason to use my cast iron frying pan for the first time (wedding present!), and (4) an excuse for another visit to the farmer's market today. A P.S. to Ms. Haspel: While lI became acquainted with (and ate) pigs named Bacon, Eggs, and Porkchop during a several year tenure in Iowa, I really like your pigs' names. May they live a good life and taste delicious!

Thanks!  I will pass your good wishes on to my pigs.

I would like to make an authentic coq au vin. I really enjoy the taste of braised poultry that comes out of our cast iron dutch oven. the problem I have is that I do not know of anywhere to get and old rooster carcass or even an old hen carcass that is USDA inspected. I am not interested in obtaining meat that has not been inspected.

You may be out of luck on that one.  Given the lack of demand, and what would probably be a low price, it doesn't make financial sense for a farmer to get an old bird slaughtered at a USDA facility.  If you want authentic coq for your vin, you can find live roosters on Craigslist if you're willing to do the job yourself.  It's not that difficult, honest.

what a fun idea for a dinner club! Hunger Games comes to mind immediately: cookies in white paper bags (that's what Peeta's dad brings for Katniss when he visits her before she goes off to the games), bread slices with goat cheese and apples (a treat Peeta and Katniss share in the cave....the goat cheese also is an homage to her sister Prim's pet goat), mini cups of lamb stew (Katniss' absolute favorite thing to eat, even in canned form!), and maybe something with mixed berries, like mini tartlets with mixed berries on top (an allusion to the poisonous berries that ultimately save Peeta and Katniss' lives). there is so much fun food stuff in that series!!!!

Yeah, that seems to be a popular inspiration. Thanks!

I made it last week and it was wonderful. I used shrimp and scallops ( both cut into smaller pieces) and they took over 2 hours to "cook" through. I imagine it was due to the shellfish meat being tougher for the lime to penetrate. Have you had similar experieices?

Very interesting. I can't recall seeing a shrimp seviche recipe that calls exclusively for cooking the shellfish in the citrus juice. The ones I've seen call for parboiling or pre-cooking the shrimp.


Whose recipe did you use?

I've had a glass shrimp seviche at Roberta's.  So good. Bet Maine shrimp would work well.

I totally appreciate and understand the desire to humanely raise your own pigs. But I wonder, aside from the benefits of pig ownership, how is the economic breakdown of raising your own pig?

I'll give you the run-down in November, when we bring them to slaughter.  I think the short answer is that you can raise them for about what you'd pay a local farmer for them -- at least that's what I'm hoping.  It's not a money-saver unless you raise enough to have economies of scale.  

Just wanted to give some love to our local farms and farmers' markets! I cannot even express in words how much I've enjoyed the blueberries I picked at Butler's earlier in the summer or the blackberries I've picked the last two weekends at Homestead, or how much I love the Pike Central Market on Saturdays - Twin Springs Farm, the salad guys (I think he's from Community Gardens of WV), Westmoreland Produce and Westmoreland Berry Farm. I am eating such delicious fresh goodies, and feeling healthier because of it!

Amen to that. We love our local markets. In my lunch bag today, I have blueberries, canteloupe, a peach and several plums I picked up. Makes it so easy to get your recommended fruit and veggie servings.

I bought my first cast iron skillet in the fall, Lodge brand, and have consistently cooked meats (bacon, roast chickens) in it as I thought that would encourage the non-stickiness that cast iron is famed for (in addition to coating the pan with oil between uses), but... my fried eggs still stick! Is there anything else I can do to help get my pan in good shape?

See my previous answer on the relative nonstick-ability of cast iron. Before I saw your question, I made the egg comparison, too! Do your eggs stick badly, or just a little? If you're cleaning/maintaining correctly, I think it's just a matter of time -- the skillet will get more and more seasoned over the years. 

How much research did the authors do to prepare for raising pigs if they did not even become aware of 4-H or extension? One of the problems I have seen by well intentioned by lazy first time livestock owners is that they do not educate themselves and just wing it. the livestock owners are just out some money, but their lviestock suffer. The authors statement that they expected to lose 1 of their 3 pigs (an unbelievably high death loss percent) as well as their eluded to poor performance with ducks leads me to think they are in that category.

I think it's quite a leap to go from "not aware of 4H" to lazy and uneducated.  It may surprise you to learn that there are many, many resources other than 4H to learn about keeping livestock.  

And, for the record, the ducks were healthy, apparently happy, and quite delicious.  I just didn't take to their personalities.  There are just some kinds of personalities that are hard to warm up to.

I'm feeling more confident that I'll be able to track this wine down, now, thank you! Do you ever do tastings or seminars in the DC/MD/VA area that your readers could attend? I find your columns so educational, would love to attend something in person. Thanks again!

We were out of town when the storm hit and did not get back home until several days after the power was back on -- so no way to tell whether things in the freezer had ice crystals. We threw out virtually everything, but are there some things that it is safe to inspect and let your eyes and nose be your guide? For instance, wouldn't jams or jellies show mold if they were too old, and ditto for bread? I'm also wavering on stuff like pickles, mustard, and soy sauce. (BTW, I did look at -- and appreciate -- the guidance you published shortly after the storm, but wanted a little more clarification.)

Most of those things will be fine, according to this chart. But, yeah, certainly use your judgment. If you're really worried, or obviously if it smells or looks bad, just toss it!

Nora Ephron's Heartburn contained a recipe for a past (a; sic) with uncooked tomato sauce that is light, lovely and perfect for summer.

That is not only an excellent suggestion, but the best typo of the day.  We all want a past with uncooked tomato sauce.  (I make mine with olive oil, garlic, tomato, basil, and salt.)

1 cup corn meal 1 egg 1 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp salt 1 cup buttermilk 2 tsb oil/grease heated in a cast iron skillet in the 450 degree oven the ingredients are mixed, the hot oil is added to the batter and then dumped back into the hot skillet which is placed in the oven. turns golden brown in about 8 minutes cool, butter and add sorghum molasses

This is prevention, not a cure...I started pressure canning homemade stock because it took up too much room in the freezer. The biggest benefit is I don't lose it when the power goes out. Some work up front, but worth it (to me.) Another reason to get into home canning.


The late, great Nora Ephron! For starters, I loved the recipes in "Heartburn" -- and they don't cause heartburn.

Sigh. How can I miss someone I never met? The spaghetti carbonara and vinaigrette are still in my repertoire.

When I mother was a child, they kept a pig for winter food. One year the pig was very clever and personable. They named it Pansy. My grandfather taught it tricks. Then they slaughtered it. My mother hardly ate that winter. Moral:  Don't name your pig.

Look at it another way.  Pansy had a better life than most pigs on this planet.  And, if we eat meat, that is what we should strive for, I think.

My partner and I are trying to lose some weight, but I do not want to sacrifice good food. Any suggestions for good light cookbooks? I have a few other cookbooks by America's Test Kitchen and really enjoy them, so my initial thought was to purchase their Light cookbook. But then I got to thinking that there might be something different (better?) out there and who would know better than the hosts and contributors here?

I really like Cooking Light's "How to Cook Vegetables," out a couple of years ago.

My well-meaning fiance cleaned both the wok and cast iron griddle with soap. What's the best way to re-season?

It's not hard! Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Melt some solid vegetable shortening (like Crisco; some folks use lard) and brush an even coating of it to the inside and outside of the cookware; I don't put it on the part that touches the stove burner, though. Then put the pan/wok into your oven upside down, with a baking sheet below them lined in foil so the grease doesn't mess up the bottom of the oven. Bake for an hour or even longer, then turn off the oven and let the pans cool. If they don't seem quite seasoned to you, just repeat the process. The first time you use them again, cook something like sausage or bacon, or saute something in butter, which will help build up the seasoning.

If half-and-half is one part cream and one part milk, what is "fat free half-and-half"? Is it just skim milk parading under another name?

It's half fiction and half lie. ;-) Seriously, ingredients follow. I love a little dipotassium phosphate in my morning coffee, don't you?

Ingredients: Skim Milk, Corn Syrup, Cream*, Contains less than 0.5% of the following: Carrageenan, Sodium Citrate, Dipotassium Phosphate, Mono and Diglycerides*, Vitamin A Palmitate, Color Added (Ingredient not in regular half & half).

* Adds a trivial amount of fat

The "Food Lover's Companion" says it contains half the calories of regular half-and-half and wice the sodium.

I've noticed that some recipes call for foil packets and some for parchment. Usually the foil is for the grill and parchment for the oven, but other than that, is there much of a cooking difference? I can't imagine the taste would be different, but maybe they distribute heat differently?

I have found that parchment packets make for a more dramatic presentation, in that they're a little translucent and when you slit them open you get the full steam effect at the table; kinda nicer than foil packets on a dinner plate, as well.  Even though it's paper, I have better luck keeping the cooking juices in. Go figure.  The foil works equally well in the oven.

I have a portable charcoal grill that is all cast iron and made by Lodge. I have had a horrible time keeping the grill from rusting. I know that ashes are highly corrosive. Beyond emptying the ashes, cleaning and wiping with oil, is there anything else I cand do?

    Not much, really. Seems like you are doing everything right. Eventually, most grills rust. Once rust begins, it's just a matter of time before you are playing "Taps" and moving on to the next one. 

     You can scrub yours clean - which, granted, harms the seasoning, but you can re-season - then oil. But if the rust is settling in, well...

     The best thing to do is start over, either with this one - as mentioned, scrub clean, then oil, for one last chance - or with a new one. 

      Always clean the grates with a hard-bristle brush when the grill is still warm. Along with doing what you already do - removing the ash,wiping with oil, that helps keep the rust at bay. 

I made some peach jam this week. It is a pectin free recipe with just peaches, lemon juice and sugar. About 25 minutes of boiling and now they are in small clean canning jars. Since there are only 3 jars of it, I want to be lazy and just keep them in the refrigerator. How long will they keep fresh in there? I have seen people say up to a year online with apricot jam. It is by the way delicious!

The National Center for Home Food Preservation says:


For best quality, it is recommended that all home-canned foods be used within a year. Most homemade jams and jellies that use a tested recipe, and have been processed in a canner for the recommended time, should retain best quality and flavor for up to that one year recommended time. All home-canned foods should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place, between 50-70°F. Over extended periods of time, however, changes in color, flavor, texture and nutrient content of home-canned jams and jellies is inevitable. A typical full-sugar fruit jam or jelly should be safe to eat if the jar seal remains intact and the product shows no visible signs of spoilage from molds or yeasts. 


Additional reading about processing jams and jellies and storing home-canned foods: 


Some jams and jellies may have a shorter shelf life than others for optimum quality. For example, lighter-colored jams and jellies may noticeably darken faster than others and not remain appealing for a whole year. Though this is not a safety concern, it may reduce the visual appeal of the product for many people. The type of fruit used will also affect other quality characteristics over time. 


Reduced sugar jams and jellies may deteriorate in color and texture more quickly as they lack the full preservative effects of the sugar. Some fruits may darken more quickly with less sugar present. Flavor changes that occur over time become more evident if they are usually otherwise masked by the sugar. 


Freezer/refrigerator jams and jellies are a distinct category of products that have to be stored in the refrigerator (usually up to 3 weeks) or frozen for up to a year. 


It is always a good practice to carefully examine all home-canned jars of food for signs of spoilage prior to opening and eating. If there is any mold on a jar of jam or jelly, or signs of other spoilage, discard the entire contents of the jar or container. Follow the links below for additional reading on testing jar seals when you first process jams and jellies and then identifying spoiled foods in storage:


Thanks for taking my question. I was thinking primarily for looks, or perhaps unique ways of presentation that wouldn't occur to those of us who are not cooking for the public. Of course info on the correct way to present something such as seviche or ethnic dishes with which we aren't familiar would also be terrific!

We'll see what we can do!

For those looking for sandwich condiments: Sriacha and cream cheese is *awesome* for a hot/cold bite. Saveur had a recipe for egg sandwiches with goat cheese and lemon curd. I cannot stop eating them. Also, pom molasses+onions cooked down=best sweet/sour condiment for sandwiches.

Great ideas, all. Indeed, I'm a Sriracha fan, too (who isn't?). It's a great addition to the Kimcheese... I'll have to try that pom molasses/caramelized onion idea; sounds up my alley, and I have both...

Myself and 2 others drove t posts and fenced a 100'x200' field. Problem was it was in early Nov in gale force winds temps in mid to high 30's with driving rain and sleet. can you say hypothermia. One of us was an expert who had fenced most of his 70 other acres on the property. Driving T post by hand is a work out as is stringing and attaching the fence. Factory farming keeps costs low for livestock. I really dont want to pay $8 bucks a lb for bone in chicken breast o make FLOTUS happy!!!

It's true. Factory farming keeps costs low for livestock.  It also keeps livestock miserable.  That's the trade-off, and I don't think we should be making it.  

The lucky chatter with scapes should make pesto. I throw a handful of them in the food processor with an equal amount of parsley, some toasted nuts (walnuts this year) and a bit of olive oil. Add grated parm if desired and serve with everything.

I made some delicious buttermilk dressing last night but the recipe made a ton. I'll be using it for weeks, assuming it will keep that long. Is there a general rule for how long homemade dressings last? What about stuff like pesto?

Buttermilk tends to have a long shelf life, usually weeks, because of its acid content. So it depends on what else is in your dressing. Homemade mayo, for example? If so, your shelf life is quite limited, probably a week.


Pesto can hold for several weeks, if kept in the fridge.

Depends a little what the pestos' made helps to keeo the surface covered with a thin layer of olive oil.

I love, love, love, my cast iron skillets and dutch oven. I use them almost daily. My favorite one is a little tiny cast iron skillet that I use for my scrambled eggs. A friend, who is a marvelous cook, once told me that all you need in terms of kitchen equipment is a sharp knife and a cast iron skillet. I might add a spoon to that, but I really think she's right.

You can do a whole heckuva lot with/in them, it's true. My favorite skillet is a carbon steel number from France, kind of like a deeper-than-usual crepe pan, which also requires seasoning. The perfect size for me. Use it for SO much.

How many people have gotten sick from eating raw fish versus those who got food poisoning from unwashed spinach? I think we're in a paranoid place where we've lost sight of real risks.

I understand your point, though I think there's more nuance here.


Some sickness is probably a result of poor kitchen practices at home, where cross-contamination can occur. It's really important to keep proteins and greens separate when cooking. Clean thoroughly. Wash your hands frequently.


Im looking for a dessert with cornmeal as one of the main ingredients. I've already tried tamales and bars,...looking for tested and unforgettable recipes!

Well, our database returns 13 results for desserts with cornmeal in them. I'd say Cornmeal Halva With Hazelnuts sounds pretty intriguing.

cornmeal halva

Rangers-- I have a chile mystery on my hand and I hope that you can help me with it. I am looking for Chile Zambo, used in Guatemalan cuisine. I'm pretty sure I can find it only in Guatemala but maybe it's known by another name in Mexico? My internet searches have only told me that it's triangular, wrinkled and dark. It's not at any of the Latin markets that I frequent. I've been using Chile Pasa as a substitute but since I don't know what Chile Zambo is, I don't know if that's a good substitute. Can you help?? Thanks!

Hmm. This is a stumper! The only thing I can quickly find is a reference in a Russ Parsons (buddy of mine, LA Times food editor) piece from WAAAAY back that's about chipotles, and in one section, he writes, "Smoked chilies are also found farther south in Guatemala, where they are called chile de Coban or chile zambo." Could that help? Maybe the closest you'd get is a chipotle! (Depending on how you're using it, you might want to seek out the dried version, not the kind packed in adobo sauce in jars.)

Goat cheese & Farmers market tomatoes. Enough said.

Hi. Last night I made a recipe that the Post printed several years ago, for Germaine's Thai Basil Chicken, and I have to tell you, one-third cup of fish sauce is way, way too much, to the point that I wonder if it was a printing mistake! Would you check? It totally overwhelmed the dish, and not in a good way. If I were to try this recipe again, I'd cut back to maybe one tablespoon of fish sauce, which I love, but not as a main ingredient.

Germaine's Thai Basil Chicken

Hey, if it was too much for you, definitely try cutting back. But the amount doesn't sound too outrageous to me. I've regularly made recipes with that amount, or more, of fish sauce.

Jim: I'm interested in your take on this. A recent article in a cooking magazine suggested that one should use a microplane to shave a piece of charcoal into salt to use as a flavor agent. My thought was - why not just lick an ashtray? What do you think about this?

    Well, you've stumped me. I don't know about this shaving charcoal into salt thing. 

      There is something called charcoal salt, with which I'm familiar. Black Hawaiian Sea Salt or Black Lava Salt is a type of sea salt that evaporates naturally from lava flows. It's sort of like smoked salt, except dark in color. Very strong flavor, but, used judiciously, pretty cool on grilled fish.

especially in the fall/winter. Smith Meadows sells stewing hens for $10s and I love them for soaps and stocks. And as for inspection, is anything better than a place you can check out yourself.

I loved the article on your pig farming. Being involved with FFA in the past has really opened my eyes to farming. I was just curious to know how much meat you will yield from the three pigs? Also, what are your plans for the meat? Will you sell it, give it away or freeze it for your self. Thank you!

We're not sure exactly how much meat we'll get.  Probably in the vicinity of 150 pounds of cuts.  And only one of the pigs is destined for our freezer, the other two, we're raising for friends.  I'll have a better answer for you in November!

Clarification -- that's 150 pounds per pig, not total.

I often see recipes using a cast iron skillet that I'd like to try, but I am concerned that it would scratch our ceramic cooktop. What do you think? And would it make a difference if it were enamled cast iron, like Le Creuset?

Seems like people recommend diffusers, although if your cast-iron skillet is smooth on the bottom and you don't smack it on the stovetop, it should be okay.

My boyfriend and I would love more tips on plating. Especially practical things, ie: how to make sure all the food is at the preferred temperature even after fiddling with the plating.

In Mexico and I think also Peru, it's usually served in a glass goblet or other glass stemware.

When you work with cattle, pigs or sheep you quickly learn that they will hurt or kill you and your stock dogs to get to food or where they want to go. They dont care about you or your dogs. Spend a day working with stock at a herding trial and you quickly learn even ducks should be grilled and served. I have had ribs broken and dogs injured and killed by cattle and sheep. I love veal and it should be milk fed and kept in a cage. Newborn lambs are just lamb chops waiting to grow up.

Hi, all, Does everyone feel sluggish or sleepy in the morning and again after lunch, or is it just me? What sorts of food can I eat at lunch that won't make me nearly fall asleep at my desk? I've tried coffee and colas, but wonder if there's a way to avoid needing them! Thanks!

Are you eating lots of carbs or fruit in the morning?

Are rice noodles lower on the Gylcemic Index than regular wheat pasta?

Nope. Rice noodles I see at 61 (medium), spaghetti at 41 (low).

JIm, thanks for the great info! You are going to laugh, but, I am just over the hill from Hammondsport, on Seneca Lake, right in the heart of the Fingerlakes Wine Country (we are lucky enough to live here in the summer). So the info is still local :-)) Thanks again for the info, I"ll give your idea a try!

   Oh my gosh! Just unpiled a couple of boxes of wine from there. I especially like the Rieselings from Konstantin Frank.

   Might be a little sweet for the zuchini dish, though. You might go with a Sauvignon Blanc.

The peach pie recipe in Nora Ephron's "Heartburn" is one of the best ever. I've got one set of friends who don't consider it officially summer until we've made a Heartburn peach pie. Nora will be much missed.

Joe you're right - it's a different sort of non-stick. I'm lucky enough to have the cast iron pans my father had from before he got married to my mum - and that's at least 47 years ago. I almost universally cook in them and while food doesn't skate it doesn't stick either - a gently nudge gets thing going. My often eatenover medium egg attests to that. They cook so well and I every day I have nice memories of my father.

Which is is correct? or does it depend on the region where it's from?

It depends on the stylebook of the publication who is writing about the subject. The Post's (much to the chagrin of some people, possibly myself included) spells it with an s. Also litchee, but that's another story.

Well, this is the debate of the week here at the Food section. Many have taken us to task for our spelling of seviche. 


The dish has been spelled many different ways in print -- ceviche, cebiche, seviche, etc. -- and frankly, I'm not expert enough to say which is correct. But I think I've just assigned myself a blog post to get to the bottom of this.

We, too, have batches still available. I make a paste and freeze them. Cut the scapes into smallish pieces (1 inch or so in length) and pulse in the food processor until they are fairly fine. Then I add ONLY enough extra virgin olive oil to help them puree a little more. Freeze in cubes. FABULOUS addition to dozens of things, from canned soup to herb pestos. I do reserve some without freezing, then add herbs and pulse for immediate use on pasta (e.g., add basil, parsley, lemon thyme, arugula, mezzuna (Sp?) or whatever you have on hand). Many thanks to the Free Range team who first introduced me to scapes (Or maybe it was even back as far as Kim O'Donnel). I've been happily in love ever since, as have several people who have received small jars of scape-love. P.S. Chunks are also good in refrigerator pickles. THe brine softens them a bit over time.

My favorite way to use scapes, by far -- and I've tried everything you list, and more! -- is to roast them. They become fabulously tender, with crispy edges. Takes away all their fibrousness, which has always been what bothered me about them. Although I do like them in other ways, this is now my go-to. They kinda look like Chinese long beans, too, which is awesome.

I love, love seviche! However, I can't find a good place in Northern VA that serves up a good one that isn't too sour or spicy. Sometimes I even question the freshness of the seafood. Do you have any recommendations on where I can get really good and really fresh seviche in NOVA (especially outside the beltway)??

I've had decent, not great, seviche at Coste Verde in Arlington.  But really, the best seviche I've had recently was at La Canela in Rockville. (I know that doesn't help you, but I thought they deserved a plug.)


I'll check with my colleague at Northern Virginia magazine, Stefanie Gans, and get her take on NoVa seviche.

I have a book called "The Literary Gourmet: Menus From Masterpieces" that's all recipes either taken from works of literature or based on meals described in books. It's by Linda Wolfe, first pub'd by Harmony Books in '85. In case you can't find it, maybe the Rangers can hook us up after the chat -- I'm not a fast typist, so may not be able to find and type in much before today's chat ends. FYI it does mention dishes from 28 books and authors as varied as The Bible, Horace, Dickens, Sholom Aleichem and Steinbeck.

I first became interested in food when reading Rex Stout's "Nero Wolfe" books! His chef, Fritz, was a major character, and the descriptions of his food were mouthwatering.

I'm off to Keuka Lake next month...where was this amazing meal?

I can't answer for Jim, but I'd like to suggest Ports Cafe in Geneva -- terrific.

  Union Block Italian Bistro in Hammondsport. Everything we ate there (and we ate a lot, finishing, btw, with a fantastic locally-made pinot noir ice cream float, with Prosecco replacing the root beer) was excellent. 

My question is how long it will keep in the fridge. I don't intend to can them so the canning section from uga is not relevant to my question. These are also different from freezer jam because these are cooked thoroughly rather than the fresh no cooking freezer jam.

Did you see this part?

Freezer/refrigerator jams and jellies are a distinct category of products that have to be stored in the refrigerator (usually up to 3 weeks) or frozen for up to a year. 

Maybe one of the links here will have an answer if not.

What causes the peach pit to split open and is it safe to eat?

I'm looking at info that says "split pit" is a disorder that can be cause by improper irrigation or fertilization or any number of things. The peaches are safe to eat, though you might get pieces of pit in your teeth! And for some reason, peaches with split pits don't keep as well. This extension office paper explains the phenomenon.

Do you have a good recipe for refrigerator pickles? I would love to try them.

Wish we could keep on keepin' on, but the hour's coming to an end. Thanks to Tamar, Joe and Jim for joining us today, as well as you, dear chatters, for your q's and c's.


Winners: The chatter whose fried eggs stick in her/his cast-iron skillet gets The Lodge cookbook; the chatter who first asked about plating information gets the Asian Flavors cookbook (or another book on plating, if we can dig one up).  Send your mailing info to so Becky can get those prizes out asap. Hey! Have you entered our Top Tomato Contest yet! There's about a week left! Info is here.  Until next week, happy cooking and eating!

In This Chat
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie Benwick is interim editor of the Food section; joining us today are interim recipe editor Jane Touzalin, staff writer Tim Carman, editorial aide Becky Krystal, Spirits columnist Jason Wilson and Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin. Guests: Cooking for One columnist Joe Yonan and Tamar Haspel, pig owner and blogger at
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