Free Range on Food: Grilling fruit, corn many ways and more

Jul 25, 2012

Smoke Signals throws fruit on the grill, and The Process embraces summer corn.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Good afternoon and welcome to the chat!


Today's Food section is a refreshing break from the usual summer fare of grilled meats and more grilled meats. In fact, this week's section is a homage to the (not always so simple) joys of fresh summer produce. Jim "Smoke Signals" Shahin scrubs the beef drippings off his grill and throws on some peaches and watermelon and cantaloupe to prove how wonderful the combination of fruit and fire can be. David "The Process" Hagedorn offers up some mouth-watering recipes, from cocktails to cornbread, to help you make better use of all those ears of corn, well, coming out of your ears. Also, don't miss Jane "Smarter Food" Black's column on AgSquared, the latest tool to help farmers.


David and Jim are on board today to take your questions as well as the usual Rangers Bonnie Benwick, Jane Touzalin and Becky Krystal. We're primed and ready to dig into all that summer offers. Let's start this thing...

I'm hoping you can offer your great wisdom. I'm a traveling sales rep and often spend multiple hours in a store, get in my car and travel to another store for my job. I don't want to do takeout but I have just enough time to eat in my car. I've taken peanut better sandwiches in an insulated lunch bag with 1 of those plastic "bricks" that's suppsoed to keep thing cold. Well it turned my sandwich into a nasty horrible tasting mess - it actually tasted soggy. What do you suggest that's healthy and will be able to sit in a car in this heat? Keep in mind I'll be eating and driving.

Sounds like you should read our feature we ran the other year on dashboard dining.

Maybe a veggie-centric wrap would hold up better than a sandwich? I like the sound of these Plantain Wraps With Tangy Black Bean Spread.

Plantain Wraps With Tangy Black Bean Spread

Asking early because I'm afraid I'll forget my question (meant to ask it last week and then forgot what the question was!) Long story short, I recently discovered dried shrimp. Never heard of this before! I looked it up online and evidently it's used as seasoning in Mexican recipes. My question is, could I use it in making shrimp broth? I've always heard shrimp heads are the best for that, but I can't find whole shrimp around me and always just use the shells. I wondered if it would help to throw in a couple of dried shrimps in each batch I make. Thanks!

Absolutely. Diana Kennedy endorses. No whole shrimp available near you, even frozen? Boo.

Thanks for your great advice last week on spatchcocking a chicken for the gril. It turned out great! That's even without my usual kitchen shears (I'm not at home), so while using a knife only was a challenge, I was still able to accomplish getting it cut. I brined it (maybe at four hours a little long-the chicken was just over 3 lbs.) My only concern was how to tell it was done since I also didn't have my thermometer with me. At any rate, thanks for the advice, my family all preferred this version to my regular roast chicken.

Way to go! To check for doneness, you can insert the tip of a very sharp knife into the dark meat (away from the bone). If the juices run clear and you see no trace of pink, you're good to go.

Foodies! I am having some friends over for brunch this weekend, and I would love to serve some cocktail other than the ubiquitous Mimosa. Any good suggestions? I'm serving some fruit/creme tarts, setting up an Eggs Benedict station, making my quatre fromage quiche, and probably a couple of other things depending on what mood I am in when I go to the store tonight! Thanks!

Of course, I'm partial to this recipe for a Corn Cocktail, part of The Process column today on corn.

Try this Ostend Fizz Royale, which is tasty and should provide enough carbonation to cut through your rich brunch dishes.

Jim Shahin, the fruit grilling sounds fantastic. You said plantains are good, but if we're in part of the country where they're not common in stores, can we use old-school bananas instead? Will they hold up? Better toward the green side rather than too ripe?

Plantains are better, more dense, and you may find them at a speciatly shop if you look around. But, yes, you can grill regular old bananas too. 

You want a nice firm banana, but don't go green, not in this case anyway. The banana itself will be starchy. A good, firm ripe banana will take to the grill just fine. 

Either grill it in its skin or give it a light coat of oil. Or both - halve the banana and lighly oil the exposed banana, grill, then turn over and grill the skin side.

Can I throw corn, husk and all, in the oven, just like on a grill? Before I've taken off the husk and wrapped them in foil, but it be easier not to.

Leave the husk on by all means. Trim the scraggly bits of husk and silk from the ends of the cobs sand place them directly on a rack of a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Or 30 minutes at 350. It is really forgiving. Soaking the cobs/husks in water beforehand (for about 15 minutes) will help create more steam within the husks, but the step isn't really necessary. When you peel back the husk, the silk will peel right along with it if the corn is done.

You can also throw corn in the microwave in the husk. Cook on high for about 7 minutes (do no more than two cobs at a time and make sure they have a clear path on the revolving tray.

You can practically do anything to corn to cook it. I bet it would work in the dishwasher.

Here's Becky Krystal's experiement in microwaving corn.

Hello, Free Rangers! I'm having a couple friends over on Friday to watch the Olympics and would like to serve a few appetizers. I'm having trouble finding English recipes beyond entrees (fish and chips, shepards pie, etc.) and wondered if you could please make some suggestions. I'm not going to have a lot of advance prep time, so if there's anything I can throw together after work on Friday, please let me know. Thank you!

Here's a recipe from our archives:

Welsh Rabbit 


(Makes 1 cup sauce, enough for 4 servings) 


Though I grew up with a rabbit (we called it "rarebit") made with beer or ale, this smoother version seems more appropriate for Christmas Day. If it looks too plain for you, think about some of the variations below or come up with your own simple plan that allows you to spend the day with those you love.


Adapted from a recipe in "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook" (11th Edition), revised by Wilma Lord Perkins (Little, Brown, 1965). 


8 ounces cheddar cheese, as mild or sharp as you prefer, coarsely grated 

1 tablespoon unsalted butter 

Salt to taste 

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard 

Small pinch cayenne pepper 

1/2 cup milk 

1 egg, slightly beaten 

In the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof dish fitted over a pot of simmering water, heat the cheese, butter, salt, mustard and cayenne, stirring occasionally, until the cheese melts.

Add the milk and egg and stir constantly until the mixture thickens. Taste and add more salt if desired. Pour over toast.

Per serving: 294 calories, 17 gm protein, 2 gm carbohydrates, 24 gm fat, 125 mg cholesterol, 15 gm saturated fat, 460 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber


Ale or beer: Instead of milk, use ale or beer.

Tomato: Spoon the rabbit over broiled tomatoes.

Other thoughts?

I have a question for Mrs. Wheelbarrow (or anyone who knows the answer) if she is around. I started canning and have made jam a few times and all has gone well but I don't have a big pot to use for the water bath. I have had to fill the water to the top of the pot, there's no room for two inches of space above the water line if I am going to cover the jars by an inch. I have to hold the lid down with dishtowels to keep the lid from coming off during the rapid boil. This has not been ideal. I want to make pickles but 1/2 pint jars are the max size that I can fit. Can I use one of those pasta pots with a large strainer inside as my rack? In the past I took out the strainer and put in a homemade rack out of jar bands tied together but I think I would have more height if I kept the strainer in there and put the jars directly on that. Is that ok? Thanks so much!

Cathy Barrow, aka MrsWheelbarrow, says:


Thanks for asking this question. There are a couple of solutions. The reason there is a rack used in the bottom of the pot is to keep the jars from clattering against the bottom and breaking. Use a folded dish towel on the bottom for a little more room in the pot. It's not necessary that the pot be covered, only that the jars remain submerged. An uncovered pot does make the kitchen nice and steamy. The pasta pot sounds ideal. I started canning with an old lobster pot.


BTW, did you see her AWCE blogpost today about teaching The Source exec chef Scott Drewno about pickling?

I got chickpea flour to do some Indian recipes and also some manioc starch to do some Brazilian bread, but I was wondering if you have any other tested & delicious recipes that I should try using these flours.

Re the manioc, I haven't cooked with it much. Seems like you could use it as a thickener whenever you have the need for something you're cooking.  It gets some use in the gluten-free world, I see. Chatters, what do you do with it?

Chickpea flourwise, I've got you covered:

Chickpea Cookies

Chickpea Pancakes (Italian appetizer)

Shaku's Indian Fried Shrimp

Spinach-Chickpea Burgers

Pumpkin Seed Turkey Tenderloins



Only correct way to serve corn is as fine VA untaxed corn liquor in a mason jar. What this country needs is a second Whiskey Rebellion!

I'm afraid that the designer alcohol market has already usurped corn liquor. Upscale, commercial "moonshines" are now widely available.

-which is the best way to have good, crispy, french fries? Thank you.

You'd want to go with the classic, twice-cooked approach. It's worth the extra steps.


Some people soak the freshly cut fries (from plain old russets) in water for a few hours or overnight, to get rid of some of the potato's starchiness. Then you need to drain and dry them well.  Fry in not-too-big batches, in peanut oil, at around 300 degrees  (heat the oil at a higher temp to start; when you add the potatoes the temp will drop; adjust heat as needed). Par-cook them for a few minutes; they won't be done or change color much. Transfer them to a wire rack set atop a baking sheet to drain. When you're ready to fry again, get the oil a bit hotter (say, 350) and cook in batches again, this time until cooked through and browned and perfectly crisped. Drain on the rack; salt while they're fresh and hot.

One of you guys talked last week about how you just use Jiffy for making corn bread. That really struck me because I'm a huge fan of the Krusteaz brand, but I always felt guilty for using a box mix. Is there really not a better homemade recipe? Is this one of those times where the store-bought brand is the best option? If not, what's a good recipe that would give me corn bread with just a touch of sweetness to it? Thanks!

Guilty!  I was raised on the Jiffy brand Johnnycakes, pretty much. It was a little like Easy-Bake Oven baking for me as a kid. Having a box or two in the pantry's become a habit. That's not to say I don't like making my own from scratch. (Speaking of, check out David Hagedorn's Buckwheat Corn Bread today. It's got an extra nuttiness.  Really like it.)


A few years ago, ace baker Lisa Yockelson sang Jiffy's praises in Food, which I found validating.  If you're looking for a simple, moist, homemade version with sweetness, I'd stick with an old recipe from Lisa, too:

8 servings

1 1/2 cups unsifted yellow cornmeal

1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 cup fresh corn kernels

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature (NOTE the size)

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 1/4 cups milk, at room temperature

1/4 cup light cream, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly butter and flour the inside of an 8-by-12-inch baking pan.

Into a large mixing bowl, sift together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Place the corn in a small bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of the sifted mixture.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs for 2 minutes, or until well combined. Beat in the melted butter and shortening. Blend in the milk and cream. Make a large well in the middle of the sifted dry ingredients and pour in all of the liquid ingredients. Stir quickly with a wooden spoon to make a smooth batter but do not overbeat. Fold through the corn kernels with a spatula.

Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake on the lower third-level rack for 30 minutes, or until golden on top, firm to the touch, and the sides of the break pull away slightly from the edges of the baking pan.

Cool the cornbread on a rack for 5 minutes, then cut into squares for serving. Serve warm.

Long time reader from New England moving back to DC in late August just in time for canning season. I plan to explore the local farmer's markets, and note Dupont Circle and RFK Stadium seem to have the most established venues in town. Can anyone tell me if the price varies between these two markets? If I want a big batch of tomatoes to can, am I more likely to get a better price at RFK or Dupont? Thank you.

RFK. Dupont is probably one of the priciest markets around here. Have you seen our farmers market map? There are tons of options, many of which would be considered "established."

Looks yummy! I never have cornflakes in the house, but always have panko. Good substitute?


I never thought that the food experience that would linger most from a recent trip to California would be the coffee. I had the most delicious, freshly roasted coffees at Intelligentsia in LA, Ritual in Napa, Blue Bottle in SF, and Stumptown at a little coffee shop in SF. Is there anything comparable in DC? I don't know how much of it was in the roasting (all the brews I tried were not over-roasted) or in the freshness of the beans, or in the brewing method, but now all the coffee I drink here seems so second rate. Anything you can recommend? (The other amazing food experience: the fresh fruit at the farmer's markets. Peaches and apricots and plums like I have never tasted before. This, apparently, is what fruit is supposed to taste like. )

For the full-immersion coffee experience -- seasonal, well-selected beans from around the world; beans roasted in-house; baristas who know how to make both espresso and hand-pour coffees -- I go to Qualia in Petworth. Check it out.

A couple weeks ago, you guys suggested grilling cabbage as a summer side. Immediately tried it and just wanted to tell you, it's been one of my favorite simple summer recipes. Thanks!

I loved David's corn article today. So many good ideas. I was especially taken with the idea of a corn cocktail, which I'm sure would make the Momofuku people proud. I made a simple corn soup recently that was really good: onion, garlic, shallot, carrot and fresh corn cut offf the cob with vegetable broth. After pureeing it was so creamy and sweet that it didn't need any cream or butter. Just wanted to share.

Thanks for the vote of cornfidence (I just heard a collective groan all the way to New York from my fellow Posties).


I love the simplicity of your soup and will try it for sure. When the corn is great, it should be honored, not masked, right?

I LOVE MY SMOKER! Woo hoo. Now that I got that off my chest. We've smoked or fill of pork products, chicken and turkey for a while. We'd like to branch out to some new foods (no fish or seafood). What other foods / recipes do you recommend?

   What other foods have you got?

    There is nothing, I mean nothing, that I can think of that can't handle smoke. Some foods like a lot of smoke (beef brisket), some less (lamb), and others just a hint (Cornish hen). Oh, and, of course, the king of the grill: pork ribs. 

   And none of this is to mention fruits and vegetables... 

    Rummage through the WaPo recipes; you'll find lots of grilling and smoking recipes.

And remember: If you do smoke spare ribs, you don't have to waste your time removing the silverskin!

Pistachio ice cream is an elusive and rare thing, at least in my part of the world. It is my favorite flavor, (maybe because it can't be found :) ). For years, I have been looking for a recipe to make my own, but I have had no luck. Do you have a good recipe?

I heartily endorse the recipe from the James Beard award-winning "Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home." It was a hit at my family beach week a few months ago.

Roasted Pistachio Ice Cream


Makes about 1 quart


1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios (plus 1/4 to 1/2 cup if you want to add whole ones to your ice cream)

2 cups whole milk

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

2/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon almond extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the 1/2 cup pistachios out on a small baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until fragrant and just starting to brown. Remove from the oven and pulverize in a food processor until the pistachios become a very smooth paste.

Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.

Whisk the cream cheese, pistachio paste and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.

Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.

Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese mixture until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and turn on the machine. Pour the almond extract into the opening in the top of the machine and continue to spin the ice cream until thick and creamy (I have found this to be 20-25 minutes, but keep an eye on it.)

Pack the ice cream into a storage container, layering it with the whole pistachios, if using, as you go. Press a sheet of parchment paper directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

If you really like ice cream, you ought to just order the book. At $14, it's a steal on Amazon. 

Loved the article, and couldn't agree more: my go-to recipes are a grilled peach and raspberry foil packet with framboise from Gourmet, June 1984, and a grilled whole pineapple, marinated with Grand Marnier and other ingredients, that ran in The Post as a staff favorite a few years ago (link?). It has a high Wow! quotient, but is easy to marinade in advance, then put on the grill as the meat comes off and turn a few times, and it comes with built-in juices. Add some great ice cream (we have the Frozen Dairy Bar around the corner), and dessert is memorable.

Dingdingding! The pineapple roast recipe from chef Doug Anderson has been a favorite of mine since we ran it in 2007. Sometimes I serve it with ... homemade cottage cheese. Or ricotta.  I'm thinking about using Jim Shahin's cayenne/caramel sauce with it instead. Cheeky!


Try the Cook's Illustrated Oven-baked fries technique -- it's amazing. Peel and cut potatoes, then soak in hot water for 10 min while preheating oven (425 or 450) with a sheet pan inside. Toss with 2-3 tbl. oil and then put another 1-2 tbl. on the hot sheet pan; cover with foil and roast/steam for 15 min. then uncover until done (usually another 15). Toss w/ salt -- amazing. If you want to do sweet potato fries, toss with cornstarch before baking and they turn out crispy, not soggy.

Other than peaches and pineapple, can you suggest some other good summer fruit to throw on a grill?

Yeah: anything. Put small berries, like blueberries and raspberries and blackberries, in a vegetable basket and grill them for a couple of minutes. Grilled watermelon is fantastic, but you have to be careful because it can wilt the crispness; I prefer a seedless watermelon because of the uniformity of the slice (no seed potholes) and then grill about 1/2 inch slices over medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes per side. From there, do what you want - mix with tomatoes, feta, and mint for a lovely salad, for example.

Cut a cantalope in half, scrape the seeds from it, grill each half fruit side down for about three minutes, then fill the cavity with ice cream.  

Grill several different fruit and mix them together with a little lime juice and a light sprinkle of cayenne for a fabulous and easy fruit salad.

There's a few ideas. Now, off to the grill with ya.

Hi Foodies I was just informed today that I'm going under the knife on Monday morning for surgery on my spine (y-ouch is all I'm going to say). This caught me as a surprise which means I have exactly 2 days to get things prepared - house cleaned, and cups/plates and everything else brought to my level since i won't be able to bend or reach for 2 weeks after. This weekend i'm out of town for a wedding (go figure I'm in it and could really use this weekend to prep but that's not possible) What do you suggest I cook for those 2 weeks? I'm going to have to buy everything since I won't be driving. I need healthy and quick and easy. Comfort food is going to be a must for at least a few meals (mac and cheese, tuna casserole which I'll have to make ahead of time). I was hoping to make a few things and freeze them. Getting pots/pans out is going to be difficult but I can pull them up to stove level ahead of time - I won't be able to lift anything so draining water from a pasta pot for example is going to be too much. It's amazing how much we reach or bend for things and take it for granted.

I found a recipe recently that used steak seasoning on vegetables. That may be Food 101, but I just never thought it would be particularly good. However, they were great! Do you think I could use steak seasoning on salmon too? It's a mix that I got from my sister for grilling steak, so we've been using it for that up until now.

My gut instinct tells me that the steak seasoning may be too strong for the salmon, ultimately masking its flavor, not enhancing it. But here's what I would do: Use the steak seasoning on part of your salmon and see if you like the results. If not, you still have the rest of the fish to enjoy.

As someone who buys 2 dozen ears of corn every week during the summer to freeze and use as much of as possible, I loved the corn focus of this week's article! Any excuse to eat fresh corn cut off of the cob (in fact, eating corn and tomato salad as we speak!). also, made a peach pie using Kate McDermott's recipe last week, it was absolutely wonderful! worth searching out lard at the farmers market and European butter for. Thank you!

Hooray for pie!

This probably wasn't the OP's intention, but on the subject of grilling bananas: Open one strip of peel, lay down a few mini marshmallows and chocolate chips, maybe a few crushed graham crackers if you're feeling sassy, roll the peel back up, wrap the whole thing in aluminum foil, and grill until melty goodness ensues.

We used to do this at summer camp!

Maybe not a question, but I'd sure love to be a guest at Jim Shahin's house - the grilled fruit sounds absolutely delicious - he's got more creativity that I have!!!!!

 Aw, shucks.

Just doin' my job, ma'am/sir...

I have a friend who lives in Columbus, OH and has never heard of Jeni's ice cream. Now I can't find the washpost article!! Can someone help me ?

Here's the story by Jane Black.

Jim: Great fruit-on-the-grill ideas. Any thought as to making some smoky jams out of the grilled fruit (I'm a summer jam maker)? Or is it better to just consume as I go?

Dude, you know that answer before you ask it: grill, baby, grill. Oh, and smoke. Grilling alone will not give you the depth of flavor you are seeking; the other ingredients in the jam will thin that flavor out. So, in addition to grilling whatever fruit you're using for a jam, make an indirect fire, move the fruit to the cool side of the grill, add some wood chips, close the grill lid, and smoke for about 5-10 minutes (not too long, or you will oversmoke). Then, put on some morning toast and wow your family. 

I bought a bottle of Niagara wine from Horton maybe 6 years ago. It has not been opened. It once was golden in color. Now... it looks like a slightly pale balsamic vinegar. Part of me is curious enough to want to open it but will the smell be overwhelming? Thanks.

Dave says:


Well, Niagara's a pretty fragrant wine to begin with, as most Native American grape wines are (compared to the European varieties that are much more familiar, such as cabernet, merlot, chardonnay, etc.) Unless the bottle is display-worthy for some sentimental reason perhaps, I'd say go ahead and open it. If the wine reeks, it'll make good drain cleaner. On the other hand, you might have an interesting sherry.

Awesome, thanks! One quick follow-up question. I notice the recipe you linked to calls for grinding the heads to a powder. Do you think I could just throw them in whole and take them out at the end? I don't have a coffee grinder.

I think you'd get more bang for your buck if you broke them down. Place in a heavy-duty Ziploc bag. Seal and pound until the dried shrimp is pretty evenly pulverized.

I made a cheesecake Sunday night with an oreo crust. The cheesecake part came out great, but the crust was burnt. There wouldn't be a way to bake the cheesecake a shorter period of time, so could it have been my pan? Or maybe too much butter mixed with the oreos? The recipe called for it to be baked a head of the cheesecake part, then cooled, so maybe that was it?

No real way of knowing, since I wasn't in the kitchen with you and can't see your recipe. I doubt it's the butter factor you mention. Could be any of these things, or more: 1. Your pan is too thin/flimsy;  2. your oven thermostat is off; 3. you didn't thoroughly cool the crust after it pre-baked; 4. you messed up and set the oven at the wrong temperature. I'm assuming the cake didn't cook in a water bath?

Tonight I'm make a steak for my fiance, and salmon for me, and I got a head of broccoli to make a side. Originally I was just going to do my usual saute with some soy sauce, ginger, etc., but I'm kind of bored with that. Is there anything I could make that wouldn't require a lot more ingredients? I was thinking of roasting it and putting it on top of cheesey grits - or would that be too weird?

Roasted broccoli with cheesey grits sounds a little heavy for the weather to me. Yesterday at Momofuku Ssäm Bar in New York, I had chilled blanched broccoli tossed in a bluefish vinaigrette. The dressing seemed like little more than a basic vinaigrette with the fish pureed into it. Smoked trout would be a good substitute (but don't overdo it.) for bluefish. There may have been a touch of seame oil in the dressing, and some frizzled shallots on top, too.

Hi! My kitchen doesn't have the space for a full sized food processor, so I make do with a mini one. However, quite a few recipes have been catching my eye lately that call for drizzling in oil or the like while the processor is going, and my mini doesn't have the spout at the top. Is it better to add in the oil bit by bit between pulses, or to whip out my immersion blender and pour that in while it's running?

Eh, is it just for making vinaigrettes or dressings? If so, you can put all the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, and shakeshakeshake till emulsified. Otherwise, try using a whisk and a mixing bowl. Good exercise.

Really like the piece today on grilling fruit. I would never have thought to grill anything but pineapple, so it sounds exciting to try new fruit. With Fall coming up, do you have any ideas for apples?? Thanks

     Because they are firm, apples are really easy to grill and, let me tell ya, they take to the grill really well. In fact, I have no idea why grilling apples isn't all the rage.

      Cut an apple in half, core it, cut off its stem and end, and skin it (that last part is optional; depends on what you are making and whether you like skin). Place the apple cut-side down over a direct medium-hot fire for about 4 minutes, then turn over for 3-5 minutes. Remove from the grill, and chop, along with some serranos or jalapenos, some red onion, some cilantro, and a nice big squeeze of fresh lime. It makes a great salsa for grilled pork. 

     You can also grill the apple, then smoke it for about 5 minutes, then put it in a pot and mash it with some sugar into smoked applesauce. 

      Have fun this fall!

Make a couple varieties each of sweet and savory scones, and serve with some butter and jam.

Scones, of course. Many varieties here.


How about scrummy scotch eggs? bubble and squeek? yorkshire pudding? Mini cornish pasties? You could go Indian and have papadoms with chutney, samosas. pakora - after all, Chicken Tikka Masala is the most ordered dish in the uk? You might have more success with 'starters' - in UK it's 'starters' and 'main course'. I would also recommend looking for 'hors d'oeuvres' - probably more what you're looking for - finger food.


I love the tikka masala idea, which is both smart and counterintuitive to those who only think of  "British food" as meat and potatoes.


Here's a fun recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala Turnovers.

Hey, Smoke Signals - loved your blog yesterday about the BBQ crawl. Where are some good places around the country to do a BBQ tour? I'd love to do one!!!

     Well, you can belly up to the barbecue at any of the four major 'cue capitols: Memphis, Kansas City, North Carolina, and Texas.

Typically, a person reads up on places they want to visit, draw up an itiniterary, and off they go. But there are some guided tours out there. 

      The North Carolina Barbecue Society has developed a Barbecue Trail. I've read about a guided barbecue tour in Texas. 

      I took a tour (believe it or not) of New York City. It was about a year ago, and was led by cookbook author Amy Mills and her co-author/bbq champ dad, Mike Mills. The tour is public, so you, too, can take it. It's called the Big Apple BBQ Smoke Tour. 

       Wherever you go, let me know. Would love to know what you find!

If you haven't read it, here is Jim's story about the barbecue crawl.

I used to love corn ice cream when I lived in Beijing. Is there way to make some at home? Or a place to buy some?

Well, I can highly recommend the frozen corn milk ice cream pie at Momofuku Milk Bar. Here is a recipe for corn milk ice cream from Epicurious. Substitute my corn milk for the milk in the recipe. It could only enhance the corniness of the final product.

You can use an English ale and some sharp cheese to make a beer cheddar dip.

I'm just curious - what do you guys eat at the airport, assuming it's not a flight that you can eat for beforehand? Do you pack some good snacks, or just let go and grab that McDonalds?

If I need a full meal, I will "let go" and get a sandwich at, say, Subway or Potbelly. Often I'll eat yogurt. But I do tend to pack lots of snacks, mostly fresh fruit, granola bars and maybe some homemade baked goods if I need breakfast.

Me, depends on which airport and my appetite. At DCA, I like to grab a Five Guys. At O'Hare, I make sure to get a Chicago hot dog. In New Orleans, and I know this makes no sense, but there is just something about that Popeye's Chicken in the terminal. 

If I'm at O'Hare, I'll always buy an Italian beef sandwich, dipped, at the nearest vendor. At Reagan, I tend to buy a cup of coffee and sulk until I can land somewhere with better food options.

Actually I try not to eat at the airport, but if I do around here,  I'm likely to encounter Jim Shahin at the Five Guys. If I'm not that hungry I just grab one of those pre-cut fruit cups you see everywhere.

I try to pick up a really good sandwich (smoked brisket) or composed salad from Wagshal's.  If I can't do that, I opt for a bagel. With whine.

Greetings! I am hosting dinner for my book club next Wednesday... there are 11 of us total and I was hoping that you'd have a suggestion for a summery entree that I can either prep ahead of time or make quickly (time between leaving work and the start of the meeting is about one hour). I'd love to make a Boccone Dolce for dessert (I have a tried and true recipe), so if we can find something that doesn't clash with that, it would be great. Also, NO CILANTRO (it's the Devil's weed)! :) Thank you!

For such occasions, I like a composed salad, a la Nicoise; it's flexible for that size group and you can make it all the night before.  It'd take about an hour for you to set it up on a nice big platter and the ingredients would be at a palatable room temperature. Boil some small Yukon Gold potatoes; cook haricots verts just until they're bright-green and crisp-tender; poach some chicken or marinate/grill some meat and cut it into serving-size strips (or simply lay out some good-quality, oil-packed tuna fish); toast some walnut halves; add a heap of cornichons and/or pitted olives and slices of hard-cooked eggs; buy or roast some bell peppers and cut them into strips; make a creamy, aioli-like dressing. Serve with crusty bread.

I'm planning to make and can peach preserves this weekend - I have the supplies save for jars and lids - where in Arlington VA (or very close by) can I find those items? I know Walmart out in the suburbs has them, but I really don't want to make the trek. Thanks in advance.

The Falls Church Target appears to have some jars in stock, but I'd recommend you support a small business and head to the awesome Ayers Variety and Hardware (5853 N. Washington Blvd.).

I loved David's piece on corn. It's always fascinating to read how he develops recipes. However, I have to disagree with his advice on vetting corn. I would never open an ear, even a little. Once exposed to air, the kernels start going to starch. Also, too many people while looking for the absolutely perfect ear ruin piles of perfectly good corn stripping ear after ear. Carefully examining and feeling the ear should do. If there are any worms, they'll leave a distinctive mark. If it's old, the dryness of the husk and tassels will tell the tale. You wouldn't open a banana at a market would you?

I'll let David defend himself, but  I will say that growing up in the Midwest, I was taught that peeling back the husk of corn at market is not done; just feel the tip to detect kernel size and presence of critters. I guest East Coast mores are different.

My, my. Peeling back the husk is done, apparently, because I do it. I peel it back maybe an inch, so let's get a grip. I hardly think the corn is so ultra sensitive that the sugar content plummets disasterously from having a square inch of kernels exposed. And I don't think the comparison to opening a banana works here. Opening the banana wouldn't tell you anything; you'd have to take a bite out of it, which you would not be doing to corn.

If there is nothing wrong with the ear that I can detect, I take it. If there is a defect, I set it aside, away from the pile. I'd say I take at least 90% of the ears I open. And I haven't detected any loss of sweetness.

The recipe for plantain wraps and black beans looks so good! I don't have experience cooking plantains and I was wondering if it is possble to cook them in the oven instead of frying.

I guess you could try roasting them, although if you look at that recipe, it's not very fattening even with the frying. The flavor, as well as the texture, might be a little different. I'm seeing different suggestions on the interwebs, but maybe try something like 375-400 degrees for 20 minutes?

Folks who peel & poke corn a la Food article today, then don't buy the ear because it doesn't meet their lofty standards, are actually pretty obnoxious. Someone else--shopper or farmer--is going to get stuck with that air-dried, key-pierced ear. You can tell almost as much by just hefting, perhaps with a light squeeze.

I will repeat this. It's not as if I am wildly ripping apart ears and leaving them completely shucked. I respect food. I peek at the kernels. I have been stuck with crummy corn when I don't look at it and pierce it.  And pricking one kernel is hardly a spate of wanton destuction. Interesting though that you inferred that from what I wrote. 

I have advanced to the point where I will put in an effort to make a nice entree, but I don't really feel like putting in the extra effort to make a second dish. So what can I do with a frozen mix of carrots and peas? All I have done in the past is a) add butter, or b) I once boiled fresh carrots for a bit, then sauteed with honey and dill. I'm looking for something no more complicated than that, if possible! :)

Step away from the frozen bag. What's your entree?

I bought the book, and have tried several of the recipes, and they all turned out good, but they all tasted predominantly like cheesecake. The first time, I thought it was the cream cheese I used (regular ole Philadelphia), but I have tried it with other kinds as well (even organic), and still get the same off taste in the ice cream. Don't get me wrong, it isn't bad, but I want my ice cream to taste like the main ingredients, not a cheesecake with those ingredients added in. HELP!!

Really? I haven't found this to be the case at all, and I've made quite a few batches. I have a quart of vanilla in the freezer that I made on Saturday and it's pretty much the cleanest-tasting vanilla ever. You could try posing the question on their forum. What flavors have you done? Maybe you're just highly attuned to the cream cheese element. Something like chocolate might overpower that.

For the take your own lunch question. Two ideas. First, your sandwich shouldn't get soggy unless condensation from outside the block is seeping into your sandwich bag. If that's the case you should consider using a separate container or zip-loc style bag for your sandwich. Also, I'd suggest taking things you can assemble when you have lunch so that the sandwich doesn't get soggy (e.g. veggies in a container, hummus or spread in a container, pita). That way the ingredients don't weep and make the bread soggy. Cold soups are always good, too. For the English snacks I'd suggest tea sandwiches (cucumber, cheese & tomato, cheese & chutney, coronation chicken salad). You could also do a ploughman's lunch with crusty bread, cheddar and chutney (branston pickle). And - there's nothing more English than curry (every pub has it on the menu). So, you could do curry puffs or samosas, too. Also, you can stop by Rodman's (if you're local) and pick up some English crisps and candies. You can probably also get orange or lemon squash or Ribena there to drink (don't forget to dilute them) and if you're looking for something more adult, you could pick up cider (Strongbow or other) and beer.

If you're closer to Arlington than to a Rodman's, try Classic Cigars & British Goodies on Wilson Boulevard. They don't seem to have a Web site I can link you to but the address is 2907 Wilson Blvd.

You could also do oven fries with curry dipping sauce. Maybe an Irish Boxty? Little finger sandwiches, like for teatime? Cheese and pickle and sausage sandwiches seem to be popular. You could use lil smokies.

Hi guys! I'm pregnant and due to give birth in just a few weeks, and since my husband can't cook **at all**, I'm trying to make some meals that I can put in my freezer that will be easy to just bake / reheat. Currently, I have chili, pesto chicken, spinach enchiladas, and the butternut squash mac and cheese recipe from, but I'd love to add a few more. I couldn't figure out a good way to search for this type of thing in your recipe finder, so thought I would ask for recommendations. No limitations on food-type, etc, although I will be trying to lose those post-pregnancy pounds! Thanks in advance!

Mazel tov! It's been a while but we've run an occasional feature called Make It Freeze It Take It. If you search on those words in our Recipe Finder, you'll find 18 recipes to try. ( I'm partial to the Mango-Cranberry Chicken.)


Speaking of that mac and cheese, it's going in The Washington Post Cookbook!

Due to some health issues Im trying to limit my sugar usage and incorporate other flours to my baking -- the problem is: I don't know the basics. This is, if I use whole wheat flour instead of all purpose flour, do I need to add extra wet ingredients? If so, which ones (butter, eggs, milk)?. I know the textures will be different but I'm willing to give it a try. As for the sugar sweeteners; do I need to add a lower amount if I'm planning to substitute regular sugar for a sugar blend such as Domino stevia and sugar blend? Should I also add more wet ingredients?

Baking is so variable that I think it'd be awfully hard to come up with hard and fast rules for substitutes that would suit every circumstance. If I wanted to substitute whole-wheat flours, I'd start by subbing out just half of the amount, or maybe I'd use white whole-wheat flour instead of the regular stuff. But -- having said that, rather than start out with a recipe you want to modify, it'd be so much easier to find a recipe that looks like it meets your new standards and go with it. As for sweeteners, most if not all non-sugar sweeteners have conversion charts right on the box telling you how much to substitute for sugar. Right now I'm testing two of them; watch for the results on All You Can Eat.

Try your local supermarket...mine always has them, and at a better price then Target.

Indeed, I've spotted them in the past at our Safeway.

Don't forget sausage rolls - super easy to make. Also, I think it would be easy to scale up a Ploughman's Lunch to dinner party proportions, and that would likely be a good selection for just about anyone.

Garden & Gun recently had an article on a West Tennessee BBQ road trip.

Good to know! Thanks. 

You have to love that name! I just bought her Bean cook book. OMG! Love it. Am reading it now (yes. I read cookbooks!).. thanks for suggesting it, whoever did so..

You're welcome; Joe Yonan wrote about her in a recent Cooking for One column. Yes, we love her name. Kinda perfect for a children's book author, no? She was a great guest on Free Range, too. Love to have her back.

Hi All, is it true that corn does not get digested when you eat it? By the way, I love corn raw in my salad.

I'm reading on Livestrong that the body does digest most of the kernel -- just not all of it. The more you chew it, the easier it is for your digestive system to handle it.

I have a blessing of red currants, red and black raspberries and blueberries. Later in the season there will be cranberries. Do you have a recipe I can use to make a good salad dressing including berries - not all of them at once? Red currant salad dressing, blueberry salad dressing and so on.

I think an answer lies in the freezer. Currants freeze well right on the stem; I just put them in sturdy plastic containers. I'd puree/strain the berries and freeze those, separately, as well. Add the purees to your favorite vinaigrette, perhaps made with champagne or sherry vinegar to complement the sweetness.

I'm getting together with friends on Friday to watch the opening ceremonies and the theme of the potluck is international food. Can you suggest any vegetarian finger-food appetizers that might fit the bill?

Public-service reminder about our recipe database, folks. You can specify many categories, such as course, meatless, fast, kid-friendly, etc.

Look up meatless appetizers and you get 46 results.

With all the great tomatoes around, I'd go for something like Roasted Tomato Bruschetta.

This frequent Chicago traveler strongly recommends Tortas Frontera, Rick Bayless's O'Hare outpost.

Ahhh. Going through Chicago soon. Good tip. 

My husband spent many months working in London (stayed in Wimbledon)...a majority of the food in London is Indian...that could work too. Do some satay sticks.

My Iowa farm raised husband doesn't mind getting the corn with the worms and never pulls back the husks. We just cut it off and worm eaten ends and he always requests that ear. He says the worm always knows the best ones. It may be in my head, but when I taste his, I do think they are usually the best of the bunch. :-)

ah, probably missed you, but one more word about people that "open" corn at the market - regardless of how little you open it, NO ONE else is going to buy it. That's why it's obnoxious...

Aargh! You got my hopes up, I was hoping for a recipe that tastes like TJ CTM, and it turns out it IS Trader Joe's!

I peel the husk and look at the corn all the time at my farmers market. In fact, they often have someone on hand that does this to make it easier for the shoppers. Having taken home some bad ears when I didn't look, I always look now and no one seems to mind.

I make it all the time, all different recipes, and it doesn't taste like cheesecake. Maybe the chatter uses too much cream cheese? The amount in her standard recipe is a little odd (1.5 oz). Because I don't want to buy a whole tub just to use that amount, I've started making it with the small single-serving cups. This is slightly less than what Jeni calls for (a package of four is 5 oz, so I'm assuming each is 1.25 oz.), but it seems to work just fine.

Interesting approach, thanks. I don't have a problem buying the cream cheese bricks because I a) just make tons more ice cream or b) give little bites to my dogs.

Cornbread with sugar (and from a box) is corn cake. Corn bread is cornmeal, buttermilk, baking soda, salt, egg, flour, oil in a black iron skillet. You can add kernels or chilis, but please, no sugar.

Riff on the Plowman's Lunch--sharp cheese: cheddar or stilton or gloucester or brie; pickles: cornichons or pickled onions or pickled beets; hearty breads: dark, crusty rolls, large soft pretzels; mustard: various kinds; fruit slices; hard boiled or deviled eggs; grape tomatoes

I'm with David when it comes to checking decent corn - there are times I have found shriveled or buggy corn which I don't want to pay for. It doesn't hurt an ear of corn to check it out and be sure when you get home, you have a decent ear of corn.

OMG, the pork ribs on the smoker are phenomenal. I appreciate the silver-skin tip and research you did a few weeks ago. I joke my husband will never leave me b/c my yummy pork ribs. HA! I'm thinking about smoking baked beans. almonds/nuts, bacon. Will put my thinking cap on. Perhaps I can smoke the fruit and then make ice-cream with it (which by the way, you recommended the kitchen-aid attachment) which is the BOMB. Three kinds of home-made ice cream in the freezer now. We made those into home-made chip-wiches. Thank you!

I'd like to credit for your ribs, but Tim Carman was the one who did the silver-skin tip research. 

The ice cream sounds yummy. Good luck with the smoked fruit.

The point is the entree varies, and I just want some ideas on easy side dishes - I am not looking for a great match to a particular entree. And frozen because I don't cook often enough to justify keeping fresh at home. Generally I make something and then eat it for three nights before it is gone. Thanks.

I've got no beef with frozen vegetables; but that particular combo is an institutional layup, in my book. Buy single frozen veg and combine at your desire.  Or buy fresh and parcook, then freeze and do different things like making vegetable patties with a pureed mixture, or maybe having, say, a carrot puree or pudding (add a little flour, orange juice, egg; bake in 20 mins) instead of mashed potatoes.  Think about buying vegetables that have a long refrigerated shelf life, like celery root, for example, or fennel or kohlrabi. They last for weeks and you'd have the option of a fresh salad with crunch.

For good decaf in DC, try either stump brothers near the White House, or Quartermaine in Bethesda (which has the best decaf, ever. I know not everyone things decaf is legit coffee, but a darn good water-processed decaf makes many a pregnant women and caffeine-sensative person very happy).

You could go kitch and make a "cheddar man".

As my Kentucky MIL says Cornbread shouldn't be sweet or have sugar in it...that is breakfast if it is. Make it from scratch it tastes better and don't add the sugar and bake in a cast iron black skillet. If you must have some sweet, use some honey on your piece while the cornbread is still warm.

I usually use Splenda and just mix half real sugar and half Splenda, especially in baked goods and it works out well. All Splenda doesn't give a good end result in my opinion. Also, when oil is asked for in baked goods, I substitute half applesauce for half the oil - works well for me!!

Well, that's a wrap. There were lots of good discussions today, and I'm sure David Hagedorn will not sleep tonight, knowing how many ears of corn he has wantonly destroyed over the years.


Today's cookbook winners are the person who still embraces corn bread made from Jiffy and the chatter who asked about the Oreo cheesecake. The former wins a copy of  "Martha's American Food" by Martha Stewart (of course) and the latter wins a copy of "Charred & Scruffed" by Adam Perry Lang. Please send your contact information to our editorial aide Becky Krystal at


Chat with you all next week!

In This Chat
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is the Food section staff writer. Joining him are interim Food editor Bonnie Benwick, recipe editor Jane Touzalin, editorial aide Becky Krystal, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin, The Process columnist David Hagedorn and Spirits columnist Jason Wilson.
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