Free Range on Food: Summer cookbooks, Florida Avenue Market, Luca Trabocchi and more

Jul 23, 2014

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

Well, it's a regular Country Bear Jamboree today here in FreeRangeville! A gracious good afternoon to you all. The guest lineup: Michaele Weissman, who wrote the kid in the kitchen story; Rhea Kennedy, Fla. Ave. Market shopper; Tamar Haspel of Unearthed; Cathy Barrow, aka @MrsWheelbarrow, of Canning Class; Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin; Spirits columnist M. Carrie Allan; and most of your Food section regulars (Editor Joe's on vacation). Whew.


Two helpful chatters will win cookbooks today: Diana Henry's "A Change of Appetite" and Terry Hope Romero's "Salad Samurai," both of which were featured in this week's section.  Winners will be announced at the end of the hour. 

Let's get to it! 


I have to confess. I don't love beans. When I was a kid, I would hide beans behind the refrigerator when my mother wasn't looking. One day, we got a new refrigerator . . . busted. I try to incorporate one new vegetable into my family's culinary repertoire every year, and I'm finally faced with the one I've dreaded the most. I can do fancy french green beans b/c I lived in Europe and who doesn't love to say haricots verts? In my CSA box yesterday, I was confronted with long, flat green beans that, thanks to Google, I think are Romano beans. I suspect more beans are in my immediate future, so I was happy to see that today's food section recommends Jenny Chandler's "The Better Bean Cookbook". Also, Cathy's bean pickling article is fantastic. Would Romano beans be good candidates for pickling? Are there other recipes that would be great for this kind of bean? Thanks!

Romano beans are a little too fibrous for pickling. But don't give up on them! I like to cut them into 2-inch pieces, steam or simmer until nearly tender, then finish in a saute pan with fresh corn (cut off the cob) and an embarrassing amount of butter. 

Recently, I have noticed that wild caught Gulf shrimp is much harder to find in local supermarkets, and, when it is available, much more expensive than prices a few months ago or last year. Farm raised shrimp prices also seem substantially higher. Is the wild shrimp market experiencing supply disruptions (as the lime market did earlier this year)?

According to this industry news story, the price fluctuations are due to a few factors: the Asian shrimp market took a dive last year due to "early mortality syndrome." This, in turn, forced buyers to look at Gulf shrimp as a replacement, which caused prices to increase. Then Gulf landings this year were down by more than 30 percent.


In other word, it's basic supply-and-demand economics: More buyers are clamoring for fewer Gulf shrimp. So the price goes up.

Hi, thanks for this chat! I'm putting together a wedding present for a young couple and the foundation will be an oval LeCreuset French oven, because I love mine so much. I'd like to include a cookbook with a focus on braising -- with the additional wrinkle that the bride is a vegetarian and the groom is not. Can you or one of the chatters recommend a good cookbook? Unfortunately I don't have a good sense of how skillful or enthusiastic either of them is about cooking -- though I do know that they appreciate good food. Thanks.

Maybe "All About Braising" by Molly Stevens? Has meat and vegetable recipes for both halves of the couple.

One of my favorite books. 

I had a few of those recalled nectarines and i stored them in the same bowl as a few garden grown tomotoes. Can Listeria cross between the two fruits? I would hate to throw out the tomotoes also. (BTW - Giant is also recalling some non-organic necarines and peaches.)

I'd hate to see those go to waste. Keep in mind that listeria is a risk mainly in uncooked food. It dies at 150 degrees (F) and, if those tomatoes were mine, I'd cook them for sauce, and be super-careful to check the temperature to make sure it gets high enough.

I have some Parmesan gnocchi but I need suggestions for a simple sauce. I have lots of vegetables ( summer squash, eggplants, peppers, tomatoes) and a very unadventurous visiting niece.

An easy brown butter sauce would work? Maybe with a few sage leaves and toasted walnuts in it? You could pull them out.... or garlic-infused cream?

Perhaps a ratatouille pureed into a tomato sauce? Try 1 part ratatouille with 3 or 4 parts canned tomato, stick in a food processor or use an immersion blender (one of my favorite kitchen gadgets) . Top with cheese and broil to make it bubbly and attractive to the discriminating niece.

For the reader that asked about making coffee granita....Recipe I use requires 2 cups strong coffee or expresso (I sometimes add some instant expresso powder to make the coffee stronger), 1/2 cup sugar, 2Tablespoons Kahlua. Original recipe required a little lemon zest but I leave that out...personal taste. Always comes out delicious.

Thanks! Hope that chatter is back with us this week.

I'm, submitting early because I won't be able to participate live, so I don't know whether Cathy will be on the chat this week, but: can she talk about the different varieties of dill and how they play in pickling? Fresh weed, dried weed, heads, dried seeds -- different recipes call for different kinds, some allow alternatives but most do not. Personally I prefer weed (either fresh or dried) to seed, but I don't know whether there are times that's a good choice and times that it's not. Any insight would be welcome.

So glad you asked.

Dill weed, the fresh feathery green herb is lovely in fish dishes, cucumber salad and scattered over gravlax. It turns black and mushy in the pickling jar. The dried version can taste dusty and I use it only in borscht, and only as a last resort.

Dill seed is available either fresh on the head of the plant, like a green version of Queen Anne's lace, or dried and available in the spice section of the grocery store. These may be used interchangeably when pickling. 

We picked up some birch syrup on a recent trip to Minnesota's North Shore. Any suggestions for how to use it?

I found that birch syrup can go anywhere maple syrup went before. Recently, I used it to make a strawberry-rhubarb compote (to top pancakes), and it added a nice, unfamiliar note. 

It's great in a salad dressing, too. 

Try it in Boston Baked Beans!

I made these enchiladas this past weekend, although subbed mushrooms and spinach for the chicken:  They were delicious! However, I'm not entirely sure what the purpose was of making the flour/broth mixture. It kept everything together a little more than usual, but I'm not sure if it was necessary. Would it have been more necessary if it was chicken, versus mushrooms/spinach? Or is it to give some flavoring with the broth?

You can tell a chef created that recipe. It's fairly complicated for a basic dish. But the bottom line: Tyler Florence is correct to incorporate the veloute into the directions. The liquid will help keep the enchiladas moist as they bake in the oven.

What's the best temp to which salmon should be cooked? I've seen differing sources between USDA and well-known cooking websites. I want to be safe but I don't want the white stuff oozing out of it either. Thanks!

The USDA recommends 145 degrees F, but when it comes to salmon, I tend to take it off the heat before that -- before the flesh can be easily flaked with a fork (135-140 degrees). If you're getting your fish from a reliable source, that shouldn't be a problem. 

Re the white stuff: No need to fear. It's just a coagulation of protein. Wipe or scrape it off and  you're good to go. The slower you cook the fish (a low poach or low heat, for example), the less of it you'll see. Do you remember back when we ran The Gastronomer column by Andreas Viestad? His treatise on poaching's worth a look. 

I am going to try cooking with tofu for the first time. I found a delicious sounding recipe for tofu 'chorizo' in the NYTimes that I will attempt soon. What is the best brand of firm tofu to get and where to buy it near upper northwest dc? Also I see suggestions of draining it, cutting it into smaller pieces and freezing it for better texture and flavor. Good idea or not necessary? C.F.

Safeway, Giant, Whole Foods and Trader Joes all carry tofu. I choose to purchase organic.

Do you have a recipe for pickling cucumbers that are way, way overripe (i.e. big & orange)? Do I need to peel them, remove the seed cavities, or give them some other special treatment? Or should I just chuck them in the compost bin?

Overripe cukes will make mushy bitter pickles. Sorry!

I had a get together last weekend and went a little overboard on buying salsa and limes. I'm not sure what to do with them. Can I freeze the salsa and use later? I used a bunch in some enchiladas I made last night, which also took up some of the limes. For the limes, I was thinking of making a boozy limeade cocktail this weekend. Maybe just juice the limes, add some vodka and mint? Or make it into a syrup for something?

First, feel awesome that you got so many limes! While I hear that the shortage is getting better, I went to two different grocery stores last weekend before I found any. I'm sure your experiment would be great, but I'll throw out another possibility as well: A couple of weeks back I made a mojito variation with rum, mint syrup, limes, and coconut water. It was really nice -- the coconut water (as you probably know) isn't cloying like coconut cream, and just added a nice, faintly sweet nutty background note. Really good. But then, your options with fresh limes are virtually endless, and if the salsa is still good, you could even put them all together with some tequila or mezcal for a more savory cocktail.

I have some green beans fresh from the farm stand on Sunday. Will they still be fresh enough to pickle tomorrow or should I wait till I get new ones? Also, do you have or can you recommend a recipe for making Italian style pickled vegetables (for cauliflower, carrots, etc.)?

Take a look at the tails... if they are droopy or starting to dry out, then wait to get fresh beans for your pickles. 

I make giardiniera all fall and winter. Here's my recipe.

Cathy, is it possible to pickle veggies without the water bath canning process? Could I make the spiced string bean pickles and then leave them to cure, uncanned, in the fridge? Thanks for any advice you can offer a lazy, heat-averse pickler :)

Yes, the pickled beans cure in the fridge, too, but why not give canning a try? You'll want some of these pickles in January!

Love the idea for a braising cookbook. Consider including the Jim Lahey "My Bread" cookbook, which is for no-knead bread that can also be cooked in a Le Crueset and served alongside a nice braise for sopping up. Bread is vegetarian ...

Sorry to all...Luca and his mom are in Mallorca and can't seem to find a good Internet connection. They won't be joining today's chat.  But we have all these other experts at your service. 

I just saw that the WF near me is selling lobster tails on special this Friday, so I was thinking of getting some to grill this weekend, which I've never done before. Any tips? Should I cover with a little bit of butter? Just season with salt and pepper? I'm also not sure of how long I should leave them on the grill, and how I can tell when they're done and not overcooked.

      Tips: One, skewer the tail so it doesn't curl up. Two, melt some butter and brush it on the meat before putting on the grill. 

       Telling when they're done can be a little bit of an art, but, basically, you are looking for a whitening of the meat (with a little browning and some slight charring) and a change in the hue of the shell (typically, to orange). Place the lobster meat-side down over a medium-hot fire for about 5 minutes. Turn the tails over and grill for about another 4 minutes, spooning some melted butter over the meat. That should pretty much do it. 

Try these grilled tails with zesty butter. They were lip-smacking good. 


Hi Rangers, I know some folks have asked where they can find garam masala, and you wisely directly them to various spice markets. But if there are folks out there that don't have access to, or don't desire a trip to a store for one item, I happened to be in the spice aisle at a local chain, and spotted a nicely sized jar of it. The chain - brace yourselves - Target. Yes, Target. I haven't used it yet, so I can't vouch for it, but I'll let you know when I do. Happy cooking/canning/baking/grilling!

Yes, you don't have to find an Indian spice store in the exurbs in order to buy garam masala anymore. The spice blend has entered the American mainstream, to the point that McCormick makes a version of it. You can find it at supermarket chains like Safeway.

Any great shrimp and grits recipes? My husband will eat shrimp, but he isn't a huge fan. I would like to make a shrimp and grits recipe that is good enough where he doesn't mind that it is a shrimp dish. Preferably bacon should be involved. Bacon and cheese might help win him over!

I made this Shrimp & Grits Style Risotto recipe for a dinner party last weekend and everyone raved. A couple of the guests looked like they might lick their plates. 

I can vouch for this one, with cheddar and chorizo, too.



Lentils are like cookies for me (yes, I love them both, but that's not it). I figure out they're about to be overdone a milisecond too late. How long should I simmer lentils to keep them al dente?

First off, I envy you. I can only wish that lentils were like cookies for me.  Second, lentils are maddeningly variable, and there's no one cooking time that works perfectly. Some cook in 20 minutes, others take double that. So the only answer is vigilance. Just keep tasting those cookies -- uh, lentils.  You might also try getting your lentils from a market with high turnover, because age increases cooking time.

Tom Sietsema's review of "Parts and Labor" this past Sunday included an opener of pimento cheese with garlic scapes and red chili powder. Probably not going to make it to Baltimore but sounded like a really good dish. Any idea how I could replicate it at home and b/t/w what is a garlic scape? Thanks!

Hm! Maybe an idea for a future Plate Lab column?

I like your thinking, Rhea. 

Meant to tell you...I finally tried the Wash Post recipe for roasted Carrot Hummus. Wow. Fantastic. Although I had no leftovers from serving it, I snuck a little sample of it into my freezer before serving the rest. Then a couple weeks later ate that defrosted bit, still delicious. It will become a staple in my kitchen. Thanks. C.F.

You're welcome! We're gathering a solid core of hummi-related recipes. Check it out. 

I made these rolls (from Rachael Ray Mag)  and they came out ok, but I was wondering if you could help me. I love the idea of rolls in about an hour but these just didn't taste that good. They were bland and a little heavy, plus the dough was very loose. Any ideas how to punch up the flavor in these? Plus, any way to know if I really needed to knead for 5 minutes since it looked smooth from almost the beginning time with the dough hook? Thx!

Just shooting from the hip here -- we make some killer yeasty rolls for Thanksgiving and that recipe (from an Auburn ladies cookbook) uses lemon juice and peel and a little nutmeg. Something like that might punch it up a bit. If they were heavy, wonder if the dough actually didn't rise enough in the brief time specified in the recipe. And is your yeast fresh and happy? Kneading isn't only to ensure the dough looks smooth -- it helps develop gluten, so that's probably not a step you want to eliminate.

Not all recipes rise to greatness. This one for sweet potato rolls, however, has not failed us yet. Mucho flavor.


Do you think it would be as delicious with all cauliflower? Trying to cut out the white starches. Another idea woudl be sweet potatoes, but they would muddle the flavors of the pesto, I think.

I don't see why not. Give it a try and let us know!

Thanks to Tamar Haspel for bringing up the discussion of the depletion of the oceans for food and the new technology developing a GMO yeast. She nailed "my dog " at the end of her article - let's hear about the new technology, but the agricultural monoculture companies are not my friends! So my question is that if I want to cook fish on the low end of the food chain, the underutilized species, what type would you suggest and where can I buy it? I'm in Annapolis, MD.

Thanks for the thanks! And kudos on being aware of your dog -- I spend a lot of time trying to get to know mine, and trying to parse information accordingly.  Since you're in MD, you're just down the coast from me, and we have access to some of the same fish. Two underutilized fish are mackerel and bluefish, but make sure you get them from a very reputable source, because they're both oily fish that degrade very quickly.  (I catch mine myself, but if you don't fish you might want to cozy up to a fisherman.)  Also, I think you can get scup down there -- a delicious firm-fleshed white fish that probably isn't popular because it's a little bony.  You can go one better and eat invasive species.  There's a wholesaler called ProFish that sells blue catfish and snakehead, both fish they're trying to get out of the local water. The ProFish website can probably help you find a retailer:

Trader Joe's has several varieties of tofu (organic) of varying densities. H Mart is also a good place to get tofu because it's fresh (high turnover). I don't really care for the texture of tofu after it has been frozen (and then thawed and cooked), but it is basically drier and more dense. I generally buy firm or extra firm for most purposes, then wrap it in paper towels for five or ten minutes before cooking. Baking cubed tofu is also a good way to cook it to add to salads.

There's also Virginia-made Twin Oaks tofu, which Joe wrote about last year. It's not packed in water.

My sister and her two kids just hate veggies, dang near anything green. It's a texture issue with two of them. If you make spaghetti sauce all vegetables have to be finely minced or pureed. My sister has been like this since she was little and now her darling children are the same; her ex-husband (kids father) is the same. How can you get them to eat some vegetables if they are extremely resistant. Two of them will eat green beans and all will eat corn. Once in awhile my sister will eat salad, scratch that lettuce with dressing and croutons. They are all active in sports. But man their gastric systems are atrocious. LOL!

You could always make smoothies with greens and herbs, which are balanced by sweeter and creamier ingredients. Check out the smoothie chart from last week's terrific No Cook issue for tips on how to sneak greens into your diet.

So somehow we're pulling buttercup (not butternut) squash out of the garden (I say "somehow" because we didn't plant them and have never had them before). What should I do with them? The first one is about the size of a medium pumpkin.

We ran a recipe for Buttercup Squash Muffins With Grated Apple. That's a start.

Buttercup Squash Muffins With Grated Apple

I absolutely love the Florida Avenue Market. Was there last week and found some great deals on produce. Does anyone have a map of all the stores in the market? I am hoping to find one that shows which stores will sell to the public?

I don't know of a map online, unfortunately. Most stores don't have websites or use social media, either. The good news is that many of them (especially along Morse Street and Fourth Street) do sell retail. One of the charms of the area is that you have to go and experience it to find out more. Thanks for asking, and it's great to meet a fellow fan.

This week's CSA featured fennel bulbs. Can you suggest a good, vegan recipe to use it up that won't heat up the kitchen? (So no roasted fennel on pizza, sadly.) Thanks!

I always love this fennel and kohlrabi salad, from Vered Guttman. So much crunch. 

Also check out the nectarine and fennel salad that Cathy just retweeted the other day. 

Hi guys! Today is my last day of a 10-day "clean eating" challenge through my coach on the Shakeology/beach body fitness website. Although I am not 100% committed to Shakeology part (I did use some of your smoothie tips from last week though) and am sure many can chime in with everything that's wrong with them, I am very much liking the clean eating/whole food approach to the rest of my diet. I don't think I ate that badly to begin with, but as a former pescatarian who started eating meat to make things easier with my boyfriend and then saw some other bad habits trickle in along with the meat, it was a nice reset. I love food/cooking blogs so I'm working if you have any that you'd suggest that are tailored to clean eating or eating whole foods? (not necessarily your purview, but any tips to bring my hot dog and fast food lovin' guy to my side would be awesome too.)

Congratulations on finishing the challenge! Have you heard of the Weston A. Price Foundation or the book Nourishing Traditions? Those both espouse a clean, gut-happy diet that (whoa!) actually encourages the use of meat, eggs and stocks.

I love this chat but this is the first time I've felt it might have saved me from serious illness or worse -- News of recalled fruit did not reach me on vacation so the query about it here is the first I've heard or read about the problem. Should I avoid nectarines and peaches at the supermarket or at the non-organic farm stand? Is organic safe? What about the produce I picked up at a roadside stand during the long drive home? Thank you so much!

Don't fear the stone fruit! This is a very specific recall, from just one packing house - the article you cite has the specifics. There's no reason to think that nectarines and peaches are a particular risk, and conventional is just as safe as organic -- listeria is an equal-opportunity bacterium.

Please do a homemade pesto. The veggies will shine and it's so versatile. You can add the peppers to the pesto (broccoli, basil, spinach?) and just saute the rest.

A follow up to the lobster tail grilling question -- what should us grill-less city dwellers do? I keep seeing tails on sale at the store and wonder about roasting vs. steaming to make lobster rolls.

Personally, I would do butter-poached lobster, using the beurre monte technique explained here. It will leave those tails tasting sweet and creamy.

I am not the biggest green bean fan either, but I cannot resist trying things at the farmers' market. This recipe for roasted beans is great. I have made it without Meyer lemon zest and it turned out just as good.

We have a friend who's been a vegan for over 45 years. He's very picky about the tofu he'll eat. If it tastes at all beany, he won't eat it. It should be completely neutral in taste. He also doesn't eat a lot of it since it's not fermented.

I bet he's a hit at parties!

I just joined the chat so this may have already been mentioned, but how about sauteing onion and garlic in olive oil, then adding the beans and tomatoes and simmer slowly until done to your liking. My favorite!

Cathy, do you have any recipes for pickling without garlic? I was looking at your giardiniera recipe as I have found it in supermarkets without the garlic. Unfortunately I'm allergic, and also to cukes and the cauliflower and peppers are one of the few "pickles" I can eat. And any good recipes for pickling Okra?

Go ahead and just omit the garlic. It's not essential to the pickling action - just a flavoring. 

That fennel and nectarine salad looks great - would it work with apricots (which I already have) or would it be too weird? Thanks!

Hmm. I think apricots will be too tart for this -- unless you've got your hands on a perfect batch. White or yellow peaches might be a better choice. 

In addition to cocktails and other beverages, lime juice is a versatile cooking ingredient: lime vinaigrette for lettuce, vegetable or grain salads; any sort of Mexican salsa, raw or cooked, or guacamole needs lime juice; use on fish instead of lemon; lime granita or sorbet; key lime pie (can be made with regular limes). Before juicing and freezing the juice, use a microplane or zester to remove the green lime zest and freeze it separately. Add some lime zest whenever you use the juice.


These are all spot-on. You could also make a lime aioli, which is perfect for these tuna tacos.

After reading the article on shrubs last month, I decided to try them out with blueberries. Is there an ideal time period in which I should be using the syrup? I'm attempting the cold process so due to initial procrastination, I think I still have some time to wait before I can actually try it, but I was wondering if I should plan on a blueberry binge or if I'll really be able to hold onto it for about a year like some recipes are claiming.

So I will tell you what Michael Dietsch, who wrote the Shrubs book coming out in October, told me: He basically thinks these things are good for a long, long time, since the whole original point of them was preservation. But he also said that they hedged a bit and added some language for safety's sake in his book, so as to make sure no one got sick. Not sure when you put your blueberry one together, but if it's within the past month or so, you'll probably be fine.

From my own observation of the ones I made, the ones where the vinegar to sugar/fruit ratio is pretty high still seem to be fine. I used the strawberry balsamic one that I made more than a month ago this weekend, and it was very tasty. The ones where I went more fruity lose a little brightness in terms of color/flavor. I think some fruits/veg are more prone to that change -- you can even see it a bit in the picture above. That cucumber shrub of Dietsch's was SO delicious, but the color you see in the green glass above (a photo taken 24-48 hours after it was made) had already shifted slightly from when it was just made, when it was a much fresher looking, cucumbery green. It still tasted great, though. So I guess what I'm saying is, probably don't try it with bananas. :)

I had the most delightful summer drink a couple of weeks in Bentonville, AR -- the Arkansawyer. The bartender told us it contained ginger syrup and lavender syrup. (Also gin and lemon juice). Any thoughts on how to prepare those syrups at home? I can make a simple syrup, but am unsure how much lavender (and where to find it) to use. Thanks!

You'll want to track down either dried culinary lavender (La Cuisine in Alexandria carries a nice brand or order fresh  through BlueSkyLavender). A little goes a long way, as they say. After the syrup has cooked, take it off the heat and add the lavender; infuse for 5 or 10 mins at most. Strain. 

Either Padma or Tom said on a Top Chef episode once that the white stuff meant the salmon was overcooked. I've seen it more when I've accidentally overcooked the salmon, but sometimes even when it's perfectly flaked and finishes cooking on a plate there is still some. Is that incorrect, or it just depends on the heat?

It's more likely that the salmon cooked too quickly, or the heat was too intense. In any case, it's harmless. 

The recalled fruit was organic. The advisory stated people most likely to be effected are those with compromised immunity systems, young children and elderly. Healthy people should be ok, if they accidentally ate the fruit before the advisory/recall.

Thanks. Sometimes these advisories seem very scary because the official advice has to be the most cautious, for exactly the reason you cite. 

I ordered this at a restaurant once and was pleasantly surprised when it was a bed of smoked gouda grits with a small scoop of a ratatouille-type vegetable medly, and then the shrimp. It really changed the whole thing but was really delicious. Maybe your husband would like that and you could focus more on the ratatouille instead of shrimp? It's a few years out of date, but Richard Layman has a great map and some history up on his market blog.

Many thanks for posting that! I came across the website as I was writing, but somehow missed the map.

Here's the link to the map that Layman provides, but as the chatter mentions, the map is out of date. I'm not sure how useful it is. It's also quite hard to read.

Steam, mix with sauteed onion, tomatoes, chopped zucchini, season with oregano -- Greek style!

My friend will soon begin treatment for cancer. We don't yet know if radiation, chemo, or what. Are there any cookbooks now that you can recommend either as a gift to give my friend, or to use when I prepare food for her? I know it's important that she eat and I know that even food-loving people can lose their appetites during treatment.

You should wait to find out about the treatment. If it's radiation, probably appetite won't be affected. Diff kinds of chemo affect the taste of things....or appetite might be affected by foods having a metallic taste overall. Somebody a long time ago (breast cancer, 2001) delivered congee to me during my chemo treatment, and it hit the spot. 

I heard about Syrian Cake spice and am intrigued to try it but I can't find it on the internet or my local middle eastern market. Have any of you ever used it? Is it worth putting a lot of effort into finding it?

I'm  not turning up anything on the Google. Are you sure your sources weren't talking about Syrian spice cake? That's a thing, and I see recipes online.

I've seen chocolate cake recipes containing sauerkraut (really!), also one with beets, and several with grated zucchini. Your sis and her kids will NEVER know the veggies are there!!!

Juice, freeze in ice-cube trays, store lime-juice-cubes in air-tight freezer carton. Grate lime zest, freeze in small sandwich bag, use as needed.

A Better Bean Cookbook is just what I am looking for BUT why not in e-book format so that I always have the recipes with me if I need anything from the store for a recipe. I know the book is beautiful but. . . .

Because I'm old school. :)

I agree, wait to see what works. I have a friend who has undergone treatment and everything that I thought might work for her to eat often didn't! It's better to see how it goes and what she needs as things proceed.

you could replace potatoes with turnips

Yes, agreed. In fact, I like the turnips substitution better than sweet potatoes. You could also try parsnips, which would provide a little more sweetness than turnips.

Oh, yes, you can tell the zucchini, the sauerkraut, all those sort of things, are in the cake. Carrots too.

Could you mean baharat, which is a basic Syrian spice mix? Not particularly cake-ish, but would probably work.

Recipe, please??

Eek, this was a pure experiment that I put together bit by bit! But shoot an email to the food section ( and I will try to pull something official together -- I used Jeffrey Morgenthaler's syrup process, a liter of coconut water, and then adjusted the rum/lime levels as I tasted it.

I used an old percolator coffee pot stored in our family camper during two camping trips this summer. The coffee was great! But I can't figure out how soon to remove the percolator from the heat. The longer I leave it on, the richer the coffee is, presumably because the water brews through multiple times. But I lose water that way; the cups are fewer, or not as full. It's a tradeoff I don't mind making when I have no urgency for a cup of joe, but I'm wondering if there's some magic amount of time I should allow for the perfect percolator cup.

Interesting. Most coffee mavens will tell you that percolator coffee brews imperfect cups because the water keeps filtering back over the grounds, extracting solids that you're not supposed to extract in the first place. It can lead to bitter, overextracted flavors. But it sounds like you've found a good balance.


I suspect the key here is that your coffee is coarsely ground. The coarser the grind, the longer you can let the coffee steep without bringing out off flavors. That's why you grind coffee coarser for French presses vs. the finer grinds for Hario pour-over systems.

I'm not familiar with Syrian cooking, but could you be looking for Mahleb? It's used in Persian, Armenian and other mid Eastern baking.

Thanks for this!

Here's a link to a syrian spice mix where the description refers to using it in baked goods.

You may be on to something. Maybe this will help the OP!

Brilliant. Thank you. I am buying cauliflower and turnips this weekend! :-)

Way to go, team!

I've been looking for short steel skewers--like our butcher once used for boned roasts and left in the meat. I want them to fit in our stovetop grill pan. All I find are long ones. would these be available at the cooking supplies store on Morse Street?

You can call them to check (202-544-2525), but odds are good that the skewers are there!  I'm a frequent flyer at the place. 

Actually, he's ok at parties 'cause he just doesn't eat anything but doesn't say anything about the food either. Fortunately, the group we know him from doesn't have formal dinner parties. When he visits us, we simply put out some fruit. I was amazed and flattered when he ate some hummus I made and liked it.

to use up those limes Avocado Key Lime Mousse YIELD 4 2 California avocados Juice of 3 limes Zest of 3 limes 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/4 cup honey (may have to adjust to taste) Dash of salt Place the avocado in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. If you don’t have a food processor or a blender, feel free to go at it with a fork, it will just take a little longer. Add the juice, lime zest, vanilla, honey, and salt. Mix to combine. Adjust the honey as desired. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Serve cold. CREDIT GOES here.

Wegman's Fairfax had them on Sunday.

For the OP who was cooking tofu for the first time: Don't forget to press out all the liquid before doing anything else with it first. I usually wrap mine in a few clean dishtowels and set a heavy textbook on top for 15 minutes or so (my Calculus teacher would be proud).

Since most cakes make 12 or more servings, you're getting just a couple of tablespoons at most of vegetables in each serving. Plus, all that sugar/fat negates the benefits of vegetables anyway. But I do love carrot or parsnip cake!

You can't tell the veggies are in the cake if you GRATE the veggies fine first!

Heidi Swanson's 101cookbooks is wonderful, although she is vegetarian. Also, not to be negative, but I am a little put off by the fact that the poster "started eating meat to make things easier with her boyfriend."

Actually, I thought the commenter was quite lovely for sacrificing her own diet to make her boyfriend feel more comfortable.

Well, you've skewered our tails and waited till we're just opaque, so you know what that means....we're done! Thanks to Michaele, Tamar, Cathy, Jim, Carrie and Rhea for their expert advice, and to you, dear chatters, for your curiosity and help. 


Cookbook winners: The Paging MrsWheelbarrow chatter who asked about diff types of dill gets "Salad Samurai"' the chatter who gave a GMO heads up to Tamar gets "A Change of Appetite." Email your mailing address to and she'll get the books right out to you.  Till next week, happy cooking and eating! 

In This Chat
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie Benwick is deputy editor of the Food section; joining us today are staff writer Tim Carman, editorial aide Becky Krystal, Spirits columnist Carrie Allan and Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin. Guests: Canning Class columnist Cathy Barrow; freelance writer Michaele Weissman; Luca Trabocchi, 10-year-old son of restaurateurs Fabio and Maria Trabocchi; freelance writer Rhea Yablon Kennedy; Unearthed columnist Tamar Haspel.
Recent Chats
  • Next: