The Washington Post

Free Range on Food: Ice cream, Eastern European markets and more

Jul 09, 2014

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

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat! Hope you have been enjoying our coverage this week, from Becky's take on three new ice cream shops to Cathy Barrow's call to preserve apricots, Vered Guttman's look at Eastern European markets to Whitney Pipkin's Q&A with Dan Barber and more.

We have some heavyweights in the room to help answer questions: Cathy "Mrs. Wheel-" Barrow, Vered, and Victoria Lai from Ice Cream Jubilee, along with us regulars. So let's get this going.

As a reminder, we'll have giveaway books for our favorite chatters today -- let's make it ice cream-related, shall we? Our two favorites today will get one of the ice cream books we used to put together the frosty recipes this week.

Let's do this!

I'm making gougeres for a party, and I'm kind of nervous. I've never done it before, and while I'm a pretty good cook, sometimes that's not enough, so I'd like to make a batch a week ahead for a test drive. If the test batch works, can I freeze the dough and bake the day of the party or should I just make a new batch?

I've never frozen the dough before; chatters? But I have made gougeres a lot recently, for dinner parties and demos. Making a test batch is a good idea, so you get to understand the nature/elasticity of the dough. With this awfully muggy weather, the crisp exteriors of the baked gougeres might suffer, so I'd definitely do those just before the party starts. Or, if your first batch turns out fabulously, you can freeze the baked, cooled gougeres in zip-top bags (pressing out the air, yadda yadda). Reheat them on a baking sheet. The aroma's lovely. 

Which recipe are you using? We have a few in our Recipe Finder, but I really like the Carol Mason Herbed Gougeres in The Washington Post Cookbook! (You've got a copy, right?)

Is it possible for a home chef to buy a small amount of liquid nitrogen to try to make instant ice cream? If so, any tips (safety or recipe)?

Sandra Tran of Nicecream Factory says home cooks can definitely purchase liquid nitrogen, but she'd rather you go over safety information with the supplier/manufacturer.

Hi there! I am curious if there is somewhere in the area for good fresh exotic seafood choices. I am happy with Whole Foods and my local fish market for standard seafood like shrimp and tuna, but I would love to know if there is a place for things like eel (for grilled unagi) and squid (I love tentacle hentai). Thanks!

Both eel and squid (and octopus) are available at H Mart and other Asian markets. Depending on how you plan to cook the squid, the frozen ones work very well if grilling or battering/frying. (Not so good for ceviche....)

Is there a rule of thumb for when you heat a pan with the oil already in it and when you heat the pan then add oil (for example, when sauteing onions)?

I can't answer that question directly, except to say that my grandmother always said that anything that grows under the ground (onions, garlic, carrots) can be heated WITH the oil, and anything that grows above the ground must be added to hot oil. 

Here's a really good explanation of the reasoning, from the good people over at Serious Eats.

you can freeze them as individual gougeres and bake right from the freezer. Pipe or spoon 'em out as you prefer, and then freeze on a cookie sheet and then put them in a freezer bag. They take a bit longer to bake from frozen

Sometimes, like with Bonnie's pork cutlet recipe today, a sauce looks so good that I wonder if it'd work with something else ... meaning chicken, "the other white meat." Is Bonnie available to comment?

Like your thinkin'. Sure, I think it'd be great with chicken.


BTW, a twitter person this morning told @WaPoFood and me that this looked like dog food. I am still getting the hang of this food styling thang, but honestly, that did not occur to me. 

I've been looking all over the DC farmers markets for Apricots and haven't had any luck. Have I missed them or are we just in the wrong part of the country?

I saw apricots last week from the northern Maryland and Pennsylvania orchards. The southern orchards got clobbered by the huge rains we had a few weeks back. 

If you just can't find apricots, the recipe works perfectly with peaches. Use freestone (not cling) peaches and peel them before canning.


I'll be making a 10-hour drive up near the NY-Canada border next week and am wondering if there are any of our many fabulous local foodstuffs that would make a good hostess gift for a food-loving vegetarian household tat includes gluten- and dairy-free members. Do you know if they have scapes up there? Or maybe I should whip them up all three of Joe's salad dressings on arrival and put them in pretty bottles?

So many possibilities! Pickles from Gordy's, kimchi from Number 1 Sons, chickpeas from 2Armadillos, fruit ketchups from 'Chups are among them. If you're handy in the kitchen, you could do a little DIY, such as Cathy's lovely Apricots in Syrup.

Well, you know what I vote for!

Salad dressings!

Victoria, I know you develop tons of unique ice cream flavors - Is there any ice cream flavor that you thought was going to be delicious but turned out to be a total flop? Or vice versa, something you thought was going to be gross, but you took a chance and it was delicious?

Making a delicious and great-textured ice cream has a lot to do with knowing how much water your flavors will add to your cream mixture.  When I first started making ice cream, I made a Honeydew Cinnamon flavor.  I made it because I couldn't imagine it tasting really good and I wanted to be surprised with its success.  Instead I was reassured that melon is a tricky fruit to add to cream, and cinnamon is not the best compliment to honeydew.

Conversely, I made a Citrus Sichuan Peppercorn that tastes refreshing and has a fun, tingling bite at the end.  I love making flavors that have an arc of experiences.

So, I'm thinking of making your recipe for Orzo with Smoky Tomato Vinaigrette, but I have two concerns -- the first is that I don't have smoked salt. The second is that I'm afraid of what will happen to the tomato skins, will they come off and be slimy pieces. I've got an aversion to anything that feels like that --same problem when peach/nectarine skins come off in a fruit crumble, for example. I get that this is a pretty specific idiosyncrasy, so maybe I should just find another recipe. Now that I've typed this, I feel a little foolish for even bothering you with my mental hangups, but maybe it'll be good for a laugh.

Thanks for reminding me about this recipe, which I sort of overdosed on around the time I tested it. (I made it many times and took it places, ya know?) I can make your concerns disappear. First, you can make your own smoked salt. Easy. Second, I've found with cherry tomatoes, the skin doesn't really separate/slime the way it does with, say, big chopped toms. The more gently you toss the pasta mixture, the more the charred cherry toms will hold together. I hope you give it a try -- even if you don't make the salt. And hey -- I don't mind the hangups. Now, if you'd asked us how to make this in a  slow cooker, maybe . . . . 

I have a fantastic recipe for half sour pickles (and a ton of pickling cucumbers in the garden) but the brine is really salty - to the point where I have to wash the pickles before we eat them. It might be because I used pickling salt, is there a ratio I should follow to get the brine correct?

I use 1/4 cup kosher or pickling salt to 1 quart water. This ratio will keep the brine at the salinity necessary for lacto-fermentation.

No matter how hard I try to follow everyone's instructions on how to care for my Lodge pre-seasoned cast iron frying pans, they just don't work for met. The latest is that I've been storing them in the oven because I have very little storage space, and don't bake that often, and when I do I just take them out. I took one out to use it the other day and it looked dirty and I wiped a paper towel across the surface and it came away black as soot. Is this normal? needless to say, I didn't want to cook in it at that point. I really don't get the whole storage issue. People say to put a thin film of oil on it before storing. But then you're storing an oily pan (that may also still have some beef/lamb/etc. residue in it because you're not supposed to scrub with soap) in a cabinet. That seems disgusting to me. At a minimum dust will collect on the oiled surface. Help! What am I missing? The world seems to be divided up into people who rave about them and people like me who can't get them to work for us. Maybe the Food Section could do an article on working with a cast iron neophyte to turn him or her into a cast iron believer. (P.S. I'm not volunteering!)

Sorry that the cast-iron thing has gotten you down! It really doesn't need to be as hands-off as people say, IMHO. I don't scrub with soap, but I use hot water and a brush to get rid of any food residue. And once you've got it seasoned, you certainly don't have to oil it up every time you store it. You just want to make sure to dry it so it doesn't rust. So take that soot-covered pan and rinse it with hot water, wiping out the residue.

I recently visited Yekta Market and was thrilled to find dried lemons and limes, so I stocked up on these. How do I use these? and how long do these last? And also, where can I find pickled lemons? If I have to make this myself, will regular lemons I can get from grocery store work as well?

The Persian dried limes are excellent in stews and rice dishes. You can experiment by adding a couple (whole) limes to a simple rice dish cooked with chopped herbs and veggies like carrots and celery. They will keep forever in a cool storage place.

As for pickled lemons, those are also available at Yekta and other Middle Eastern stores. But I would highly recommend the Israeli pickled lemons, by Pereg, available at Kosher Mart in Rockville. those are done the Moroccan way, the lemons are sliced and cooked and pickled in paprika and oil. Super delicious.

Hello! I recently bought a small home ice cream machine and have been trying out a few recipes. However, the consistency of what I'm making is either coming out really grainy or it freezes hard. I love the fluffy, creamy smoothness of stuff I get at the store. Any advice on how to try to replicate it at home? Also would love any guidance in a good ice cream base recipe! Thank you!

The smoothest ice cream makers are chilled and spun quickly, and home ice cream machines can be limiting when the frozen barrel thaws too quickly (causing the ice cream to need more churning time).  

There are several ice cream makers with refrigeration motors inside it.  I use NewAir AIC-210 for my test batches.  I don't have to keep any part in the freezer, and it makes 2 pints in less time.


But if you are sticking with a regular Cuisinart machine, try using alcohols or sugar syrups to adjust the texture.  Adding alcohol and more sugar raises the freezing temperature.

Glover Park still misses Max's Best Ice Cream :(

Duly noted!

Joe's recipes look delicious, especially the cashew-mint. I've noticed that Joe's recipes and bottled dressings always specify two tablespoons as the serving size. Is that per cup of salad? Am I harming an ideal salad-to-dressing ratio if I use more dressing?

Glad you like the look of these! I had fun working on them. I have to admit to something of an obsession with salad dressings. And no, don't worry about the dressing serving size -- that's really for nutritional-analysis purposes, trying to standardize what we think most people will probably want to (or should) eat in one sitting. If you want more, use more -- just be aware of the implications, of course!

We have a great (oven) recipe for flank steak marinated in wine/garlic/herbs, then rolled around a veg stuffing. Can we put this over indirect heat on a charcoal grill and cook it "low and slow"? With flank steak or another cut? If not, what might work in this way? Want to put something on the grill and let it go for a couple hours while we enjoy the patio and gardens with friends. Thanks.

      Flank steak, which is pretty lean, actually cooks better fast than slow. Treat it more like, say, a rib-eye or a sirloin than a big meat, such as a beef short rib or a brisket. Pat dry before putting on the grill (otherwise it won't caramelize). Build an indirect fire (fire on only one side). Grill directly over the fire, using high heat for a nice sear, about 3 minutes on each side. Then place on the cool side of the grate and close the lid for about 5 minutes. An instant-read thermometer should register 125 degrees F for medium-rare and 135 degrees F for medium.

        Grilled flank steak is fabulous on its own or as part of a taco with whatever you like - avocado, tomato, onion, jalapeño, whatever. 

        As for the enjoyment of the patio, I suggest a couple of pre-cooking cocktails. 

         If that won't do, a smoked whole chicken takes about an hour and a half in a covered grill over low-and-slow indirect heat. A pork loin, about 4 pounds, takes between an hour and a half and two hours. You can start pork ribs before guests arrive and let them slowly cook while you visit; they take between 3-5 hours, generally the latter. 

       Me, I'd probably just go with cocktails. 

Why do some potato salad recipes call for boiling whole potatoes while others call for cutting potatoes into chunks before boiling them? (Purely a question of curiousity. I've tried both methods with various recipes.)

Good question. A serious food-geeky kind of cook like J. Kenji Lopez-Alt prefers cutting the potatoes; you can read his reasoning in that link, which mostly seems concerned with proper, thorough cooking. For me, it depends on the type of potato (waxy, Yukon Gold, etc) and helps to have whole potatoes that are the same size, so that when they're cooking and you check their doneness they'll be in the same boat, as it were. I also like to keep them whole to save the skins. When I use a non-mayo dressing, I do tend to toss cut potatoes in cold water and bring to a boil; for mayo-y salads, I cook small potatoes whole, and then cut them after a 10-min rest in a colander. One tip: No matter which recipe I use, I almost always douse the just cooked spuds with generous splashes of unseasoned rice wine vinegar. The potatoes soak it in and reward you with more flavor. (Yikes, Kyle S., I was supposed to email you a recipe for the holiday weekend. Mi dispiace!)

Speaking of recipes, this one from David Hagedorn has always been a favorite of mine. It starts with whole potatoes.


Just make good ole simple ice cream w/o nitrogen and lots of butter fat etc. I want real ice cream and simple flavors. I want the mouth feel from big time butter fat . I dont care if its organic and what the cow ahs been fed and what music was piped in. I just want good simple ice cream that tastes great. I dont watch my fats so I dont care about calories, sugar etc. I want to enjoy my ice cream not review it.

Feel better now? I think your dig at Nicecream is a bit unfair -- their ice cream is really good and they have what I imagine what you'd call "simple" flavors -- strawberry, pistachio, etc. And Goodies' vanilla custard doesn't get more classic. And Victoria's flavors are fun without being pretentious (cookies 'n' cookie dough? Yes, please!). I could go on and on, but given your attitude, I'm not sure anything we say will get you to lighten up!

Yes, I am a slug and don't deserve good food, BUT in a pinch would the hazelnut cake work with commercial nutella?

In short - yes! Just let it cool longer in the fridge, since Nutella is a bit more runny.

For Joe: I saw a few weeks ago a great looking tortilla on your twitter feed. You said you learned from the master--Pati Jinich. Any chance you both could do a video? Mine come out too thick, or I don't cook them in the right way. Muchas Gracias!

I'll think about that video idea! But I can also say that both Pati and I go through the technique in our respective cookbooks: her "Pati's Mexican Table" and my first book, "Serve Yourself." Do you have a tortilla press? Do you use little plastic-grocery-produce bags cut into circles to line each side of it? It can take a little practice getting the pressing technique down -- you have to wiggle the handle a little at the bottom of your pressing to get the tortillas circular and thin enough. And then the cooking -- the griddle/comal needs to be pretty hot, and Pati taught me the double-flip method, which helps with the puffing. (As does poking the thing with your finger!)

Another new place - Casa Rosada Artisan Gelato on S. Payne St in Alexandria. The dark chocolate gelato is excellent.

Thanks for the tip. I'll have to check it out. Also on the gelato front, Dolcezza just opened their new location at 14th and P. And in case you weren't thinking about gelato way back in March when I wrote about it, the Dolcezza factory near Union Market is another spot worth checking out.

Can I use instant coffee to make coffee ice cream or does it have to be espresso powder? Guess which one I have in my pantry currently...

Espresso powder has a more concentrated taste than instant coffee.  If you need to substitute instant coffee for espresso powder, try using 50% more, but be aware that it can have a harsher taste.  

One of my favorite coffee flavors comes from adding Kahlua liquor.  Adding coffee liquor will keep the ice cream from getting icy, and it will be delicious.  (Kahlua and coffee ice cream is my mom's favorite combination, and as we know, mom is always right.)

Woof! Woof! Pant-pant-pant ...

Down, boy/girl! 

I've gotten intrigued by lots of (non-Scandinavian) baked goods with cardamom. Does it make any difference which type I pick? ie green, white, or black?

In general, the popular green and the black cardamom would yield good results in baked goods (the white is a little more bland). One thing that will make a big difference is starting from the whole pod, peeling it and grinding it yourself. You can get peeled cardamom pods at Indian supermarkets in our area.

I'm with you -- LOVE cardamom. The spice haunts me. One of my favorite cookies of all time is this Cardamom Brown Sugar Snickerdoodle.

I first ate these delicious things at the Chinatown restaurant you included in a Cheap Eats column, maybe the first one. A lady at the H Mart in Fairfax told me all I had to do was saute them in oil. A few days ago, I tried with fresh ones from a farmers market. They tasted good but they were so chewy and stringy I couldn't swallow most of them. Did I cook them too long? I figured they'd be kind of like spinach and reduce in volume when cooked so kept stirring for several minutes.

Like peas themselves, pea shoots grow best in cool weather. It's been a pretty hot for peas, if they were local and that could account for the stringiness. The best pea shoots take a few seconds to wilt down and should be served as soon as they give off the scent of fresh peas.

I can't WAIT to try the fresh salad dressings! Will they keep for a few days in the fridge?

Yep, they'll keep a couple of weeks, actually. To recap:

Cashew Mint Dressing

Cilantro Goddess Dressing

Cherry Tomato and Basil Dressing

I've seen compressed watermelon on menus lately. What exactly is it? Does it alter the taste somehow?

Basically, it can make fruit taste more fruity. (You know how sometimes you can cut watermelon into some pieces that are less flavorful than others?) The process is akin to an intense marinade/infusion. The melon's vacuum-sealed -- left unadorned it concentrates the watermelon's natural juices within the structure of the solids. But often, a chef will add vinegar or liquor or simple syrup to up the flavor profile. 

We got some white currants at the farm market. Made a half pint of them into a lovely sauce for some grilled pork chops. Also have been sprinkling them on salads. But what else can we do with them?

I love to top a tart with currants. Here is a lovely recipe.

Do you accept cocktail recipes? I promise not to make a Bloody Mary.

I'm testing a lot of non-Bloody Mary tomato cocktails right now, actually. If you want to send one in, I'd love to take a look. Send it along to  

We do! Send to 

Peterson's Ice Cream Depot in Clifton, VA . Maybe the best East of the Mississippi. NY and boston dont ahve anything that s as good. neither does Atlanta or Miami.

Reading you loud and clear, Clifton...

At the risk of starting an ice cream fight here, I will say that I haven't been there, but I can't IMAGINE anything better than Christina's or Toscanini's in Boston.

I love your salad dressings in today's paper. I also learned a new salad dressing made with beets over a nectarine, arugula salad - delicious!

Sounds great! What else is in it?

I love making homemade ice cream, but, with only two of us in the house, I inevitably end up keeping some in the freezer for a while. The texture always seems to suffer a bit. Is there any way to improve it?

Leftover ice cream is a serious problem that can be solved by 1) eating more ice cream, 2) sharing ice cream with friends, 3) having ice cream eating contests, or 4) adding ice cream to your coffee, waffles, jello, and pies.

But in all seriousness, the preservation of ice cream is all about chemistry.  Here are several things I learned from the Penn State Ice Cream course that can help you maintain a creamy texture for longer:

1) Store your ice cream in an air-tight container.  Water vapor in our humid air is attracted to the microscopic ice crystals in ice cream, which over time forms the dreaded "ice fuzz."

2) Reduce the temperature fluctuation in your freezer.

3) If your ice cream gets very hard, increase the amount of sugar in your cream base (with a high sugar percentage simple syrup or corn syrup) or add a little vodka or flavored alcohol.

Me too, and I LOVE those snickerdoodles. Dairy Godmother makes Mozambique, which may or may not involve cardamom, but has cloves, nutmeg, and other lovely spices. Mmmm.

The one time I've had scapes, I purchased them from a farmers' market in Montreal (Jean Talon, a stunning and wonderful scene).

Scapes show up at most farmers markets worth their salt, in early summer usually -- but I agree,  few places beat Jean Talon!

Hi, I really love cold noodle dishes, but I can never seem to find the right noodles for them. If I buy rice noodles at an Asian market they end up being too thin and clump together. I sometimes make cold spaghetti/linguine with peanut sauce but it's just not the same as rice noodles. Does anyone know a particular brand of rice noodles that work well in cold dishes, and where can I buy them? I am also obsessed with a Japanese dish called hiyashi chukko (means cold Chinese noodles) - cold egg noodles topped with various toppings like egg and cucumber and a soy sauce like dressing. I would really love to see this dish become more mainstream because it's delicious and refreshing in summer. I would make it at home but I can't find the right noodles.

I don't know that particular dish, but I make something Japanese (they call it abura soba) with cold ramen noodles, topped with kimchi, vegetables, baked/marinated tofu, an egg -- and spicy chili oil. Love it. I also really like udon noodles for those cold dishes, especially the peanut/spicy ones.

I have been making ice cream for the last few years, mostly from "Perfect Scoop," with a few from the Jeni's book (although those tend to be a bit icy.) The dark chocolate and black raspberry ice cream from the Perfect Scoop is the best ice cream ever. Storage is my problem. My containers keep cracking in the freezer. I got a few gladware "freezer safe" containers, and those a great, but I can't find any more of them! What do you all recommend?

Yikes! I've had very good luck with Sterlite's 5.7-cup square containers. Nice because they have a gasket to help you get an airtight seal, which is crucial for keep ice cream free of off-flavors and frost. I also have an Oxo LockTop container that I like using for ice cream.

If you're going near NY/Canada (Buffalo? Thousand Islands?), you won't find too much that they don't have that we have in the DC area, but the seasons are different. If they weren't vegetarian or dairy free I'd say crab cakes or some cheese (from Meadow Creek Dairy?). However, given the constraints, I'd say some produce (berries and peaches) that aren't in season there yet. Wine or hard cider might be good too, in particular if the variety isn't commonly grown in that region, so perhaps a Norton grape wine, Cabernet Franc, or a cider from Albemarle or Foggy Ridge. VA peanuts might be a good choice too.

All good thoughts. My mom is with you on the Virginia peanuts. Those are almost always her hostess gifts for out-of-town folks.

I talked to the ONE farm at the Columbia Heights market that had any apricots at all last week. They lost most of the crop to the winter, as did 2 other farms that usually have them.

So awful! I thought I had hit upon a bounty recently, when I happened upon a LOADED apricot tree in a residential yard a few blocks away, on my morning walk. I kept an eye (and tasted, of course) as the apricots ripened, plotting just when/how I would come over and stealthily grab a bag or two. Or maybe I would do the neighborly thing and offer to help pick in exchange for a share? They were delicious!

"Were" is the operative word. A few days ago, I went by and the entire tree was picked clean. By somebody(ies) who knew what they were doing.

I notice that recipes often call for "unseasoned" rice wine vinegar. A lot of the rice vinegar I see is laden with sugar. Should I be looking for the vinegar without the sugar, or is there a buzzword I should look for/look for the absence of? Something I can find in a supermarket would be ideal, as I'm way out in the boonies. Thanks!

Seasoned rice vinegar has added salt and sugar. If you can't find unseasoned, or plain, rice vinegar, adjust your recipe to reduce salty and sweet elements.  

I usually buy Marukan brand when I don't have access to a big Asian supermarket. It's available at Whole Foods and elsewhere, for instance, and I think it's pretty good. Look for the one that says "Genuine Brewed" on the label rather than "Seasoned." Its only ingredients are rice vinegar -- water and rice!


I'm making my first ice cream with fruit (peaches!) this week. Any tips for how to prepare the fruit before adding to the cream mixture and when to add it? I'm also using fresh ginger- would it make any difference if added to the cream versus the fruit? I'm using a Kitchenaid ice cream attachment. Thanks!

Fresh Peach ice cream is sure-fire hit!  You're going to make a lot of people happy this week. 


When adding fruit to flavor your ice cream, try to reduce the amount of water you are adding to the cream mixture.  Try heating diced peaches in a saucepan with sugar and a little water.  The heat will draw out the water, and the sugar will bind the liquid into a a flavor syrup that you can add to your cream, which will not affect the final ice cream texture as much.  


Personally, I find that fresh, raw ginger has a sharp taste.  I would suggest adding ginger flavor with a ginger simple syrup or putting pieces of ginger into the peach reduction to flavor the sugar with the peaches. 


I love your flavor combination idea. It sounds like a flavor we're debuting in collaboration with Capitol Kombucha: Ginger Peach Kombucha sorbet!

I actually made a Pea Pod Pudding from leftover peapods (from making the sautéed sugar snaps and English peas with pecorino and basil), and I think this would work for using tough pea shoots. The recipe came from Root to Stalk Cooking. I have very fleeting success growing peas--sometimes I just get the vine and not the pods before the DC heat sets in.

What a good cookbook that is, from Tara Duggan. Seems like she might have used the pods to create a broth, too. 

I didn't have high hopes, but I have faith in the source, and this is a new favorite! 

David Lebovitz is a Friend of Food, so we trust him and your endorsement of his recipe!

I've been experimenting with the freeze/beat/freeze/beat/freeze method of making frozen yogurt and ice cream. Blackberry-maple froyo is my most recent. Good flavor, but has more of a sherbet texture and is rock hard--takes a good 15 minutes on the counter to be scoopable. My best results are with your lemon-meringue 'ice cream,' which just uses eggs, no cream or other dairy.Could I adapt the technique and substitute other flavors instead of lemon? I've also been making lemongrass syrup and wondering what else to use it for. It seems to like turning into a vodka cocktail. But maybe it would work here instead of lemon juice and sugar?

Lemon grass would be awesome, maybe with a bit of lime juice. 

You suggest the use of agave as a sweetener in many of your recipes and l like the ease of use and the way it requires using less than honey or sugar to get the same sweetening. My girlfriend tells me not to use it as she says it's like using corn syrup in terms of health benefits and environment. Any info to help me respond?

Yep, this came up last week, too.

Dr. Oz has brought up recently discovered (or newly understood) issues with agave, it's true. And I have to say, I'm shying away from it, too, because of the issues, which he explains here.

I've been going back to good old honey, which is pretty amazing. Many vegans don't use honey, but as a vegetarian I do, and love it. Also, don't forget maple syrup!

Hello Rangers. My daughter cannot have dairy and I love to make ice cream for dessert. Do you have a non-dairy ice treat that will make her forget she's missing out. Everything I've tried so far has an icy texture rather than creamy. I use a Cuisinart electric ice cream maker if that matters. Many thanks!

Did you see today's recipe for Coconut Fig Ice Cream?

Coconut Fig Ice Cream

Honestly, when Joe gave me a sample, I was shocked that the texture was so good!

Made a Nutella bacon ice cream and served over Belgian waffles. To die for.

Whoa. Is there a "like" button on this thing?

Once I went to Max's and he had a special flavor - Rosewater, Saffron, and Pistachio. Someday I will re-create that. It was so good. And creamy, not kulfi-textured.

Sounds lovely. Victoria, want to take a crack at it? :-)

Max's was a great neighborhood place that will always live on in Washingtonians' happy ice cream memories.  


International desserts provide some of the best inspirations for new ice cream flavors.  I hope you'll recreate this flavor and share it with lots of friends!  Rosewater has a very strong aroma, so be careful that you add it gradually in small amounts so it does not overpower your saffron and pistachio flavors.

I have never tried ramps. Not because I haven't had the chance, but because of an article I read many years ago that talked about how when you eat them, you have terrible breath for days, so bad that people within 10 feet of you can smell it. Nowadays it seems that everyone is eating them, so I'm suspecting the problem can't be as bad as all that. Can you shed some light on this? Have I been depriving myself for no reason?

I've never noticed long-term, deleterious effects of ramp breath. Therefore, I think, yes, you have been depriving yourself for no reason. Happy Wednesday! 

I keep seeing a tip on Pinterest about keeping ice cream containers in zip-top bags to keep the ice cream soft. Haven't tried it myself, but perhaps the chatters who are having issues keeping homemade ice cream soft might try it and report back? Or maybe a chatter (Post or not!) has tried and can say yes or no?

Has anyone tried this? I assume the idea is to get more of an airtight seal to at least keep out ice crystals. Not sure of soft, though -- seems like that depends more on your freezer, but I could be wrong.

The most amazing ice creams and sorbets I've had were a startlingly tart green tea ice cream from an Asian importer and a better-than-the-fresh-fruit mango sorbet from Brooklyn. But locally, what I find is green tea AND something (ie mint, chamomile) ice cream, and mango AND something ice cream or sorbet. Is it especially difficult to use these ingredients by themselves? Or is it that combining flavor seems more artistic, more depth-of-flavor than using just one?

You have great suggestions.  I like combining flavors together to create an arc of flavors.  For example, our Mango Habanero flavor is sweet and fruit at the beginning, like a mango lassi, and then 3 seconds later you feel the pinch of the habanero syrup.  It's ice cream that makes you think, in the way that savory dishes with a balance of sweet/sour/bitter and texture tickles the mind.

Eggplants. Beautiful color, but scare me silly. I've surfed and looked at some recipes, but still am unsure. What is your favorite eggplant recipe (and can be done by an eggplant-novice)? Thanks!

Eggplants are my favorites. First, and since you're an eggplant-novice, learn how to choose them - they need to be light as a feather and dark as the night. If you're going with the regular (not the small Italian or Holland variety) you need to slice the eggplant, put in a colander, sprinkle with salt and let stand for 30 minutes, to take the potential bitterness away.

As for recipes:

Roasted eggplant with tahini sauce and fried eggplant in lemon and mint.

Thanks for the article about Eastern (Central!) European stores. One thing I'm not sure was highlighted - pierogies that are not Mrs Ts - which are vile. It's a food that many Americans are familiar with, but what is available at most stores is the gross potato cheese mash with too-thick dough. Try mushroom or sauerkraut (or a mix) and you'll find that they are SO MUCH better. I know they have them at the Kielbasa Factory.

I agree the pirogi and pelmeni you'll find at Russian and Polish stores are much better, and there's so much variety! They have those in all the stores we mentioned in the article. Thanks!

do we have thoughts on the kitchenaid attachmetn v a cuisisart one? I want to recreate the lemon gelato and basil gelato we had in italy!

I've only used the Cuisinart one, so I can't speak to results in one versus the other. The Cuisinart is cheaper, for sure. The KitchenAid attachment uses part of something you already have, but it's also bigger -- which means more ice cream but also requires more space in your freezer, which was a deal-breaker for me and my annoying bottom-drawer one.

What is the deal with not being able to find good old fashioned regular full fat buttermilk around here anymore? And what is the best substitute for a baking recipe if you can't find it? Went to 4 different supermarkets (2 Safeways, Balducci's, and Whole Foods) looking for it a couple weekends ago and the only thing to be found was lowfat or nonfat buttermilk.

I find it at Whole Foods often enough, in glass bottles. You can order it from South Mountain Creamery. And you can make your own, any ol' time. 

When I was at Williams Sonoma yesterday, I saw Zoku Ice Cream Maker, an exclusive product. It looks intriguing but does it really work?


I periodically have issues with not wanting to throw food out that was used to infuse something, but seems like it should have a second life. For example, yesterday I made an ice cream base (to be churned tonight) from "Perfect Scoop" that steeped a cup of toasted almonds in the dairy mixture. I strained it and hung on to it. I wonder if I could use it for something else? Re-toast it and put it in granola bars? Sweet breads? Yogurt? I also sometimes infuse liquors with fruit, usually plums, though I'm thinking of making a cherry bounce (bourbon/rye with sour cherries). After steeping for 3-4 months I think I should use the fruit again, but aside from eating a few, there is an awful lot of fruit and I'd like to transform it (jam? syrup?), but am not sure if that's feasible. Any thoughts on what I could do? I'm thinking you're going to say compost... :)

I respect your no-waste attitude, but in some cases, that food has already given all of its essence. Give in and compost. 


Then you haven't tried Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream in Maine yet...

Hi all sorry this is so late. Do you have a good homemade recipe for fajita seasoning?

we're running outta time; check out the ingreds in this chicken fajitas recipe: s&p, smoked paprika (pimenton), ground cumin, garlic powder, onion salt, chipotle powder. That's a start. 

Store your pans with a sheet of paper towel on/between. Keeps the dust down.

I would have put those soaked almonds in a smoothie.

Thinking about your interesting career switch from homeland security to making ice cream. Homeland security often involves dealing with malcontents. Eating ice cream makes people feel content. Maybe if you send your ice creams to trouble spots, you can continue to enhance homeland security, too!

I feel so fortunate that I can be a small business owner who makes people happy every day.  I like to think that happy experiences like eating ice cream help people smile at each other and start a domino effect of good deeds, which in some tiny way makes our world a little better. 

I just clicked on this URL you just provided for making cultured buttermilk (LINK: and received the error message "Oops! We can't find what you're looking for. If you reached this page in error, contact support and let us know how you got here."

hmm. worked for me. what browser are you in?

Do you have a recipe for that? Sounds delicious.

Send us an e-mail to, and we'll hook you up with Victoria so she can send you the recipe or tips.

This is what is in it 1 small beet, cooked, peeled and roughly chopped or unpeeled 2 teaspoons honey 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1 to 3 garlic cloves 1/4 cup cider vinegar or white wine vinegar Salt and pepper 1/2 cup olive oil, plus extra to finish 1/2 cup whole almonds, skin on, roughly chopped (or sliced almonds) 1 teaspoon butter 2 cups arugula or Endive or Watercress 4 small nectarines cut into pieces 1/2 cup gorgonzola, broken into pieces or Feta or Queso Fresca


Well, you've churned us according to the manufacturer's directions then transferred us to an airtight container, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for all the great questions today, and thanks to Victoria, Vered, Cathy, Jim and Carrie for helping us answer them!

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter whose post was entitled "Homemade Ice Cream Trouble" will get "The Ice Creamery Cookbook" by Shelly Kaldunski. And the one whose post was "Keeping Homemade Ice Cream Creamy" will get "Coollhaus Ice Cream Book" by Case, Estreller and Squires. Send your mailing info to, and we'll get you your books!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating, churning, freezing -- and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is editor of the Food section; joining us today are deputy editor Bonnie S. Benwick, staff writer Tim Carman, editorial aide Becky Krystal, Washington Post intern Sarah Kaplan, Spirits columnist Carrie Allan and Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin. Guests: Victoria Lai, owner of the soon-to-open Ice Cream Jubilee; Ethnic Market Scout columnist Vered Guttman; blogger and Canning Class columnist Cathy Barrow.
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