Free Range on Food: South Carolina barbecue, pie tips and more.

Aug 03, 2016

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

Good afternoon, Free Rangers!

We've got barbecue and chicken welfare and crowd food and pie and the "Great British Baking Show" quarterfinals on our minds today, but we're here to answer any other culinary q's you toss our way. Joining us are Smoke Signals columnist  Jim Shahin, who wrote about the bbq of the future he found in Charleston; Unearthed columnist Tamar Haspel, who dove into cage-free territory; Cathy Barrow, who's new Bring It column revealed the wonders of -- everybody swoon -- slab pie; Spirits columnist M. Carrie Allan (have you made her frozen boozy pops yet?); and Kate McDermott, a k a the Piechiatrist, who answered some tough q's from our ace editorial assistant Kara Elder; plus, the rest of the crew minus Editor Joe


Got a couple of cookbooks to give to helpful chatters...look for who's won at the end of the hour.


Let's see whether I can get this right! Today's Post Points' member code is FR3279; you'll need to record and enter it into the Post Points site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter it by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday to get credit for participating.


Ready, set . . .  . 

The most absurd of the claims that I see on eggs or chicken meat is that the birds are vegetarians. Chickens are naturally omnivorous. To put it plainly, given access, they will eat bugs. Will a switch to cage free mean that producers stop making a claim that can be roughly translated to mean, "we feed our chickens a diet that excludes a source of protein they would hunt and eat on their own, given half a chance"? I realize that the claims went on the packages because people freaked out a bit when the ground up chicks in chicken feed became widely known (that is what happened to the male chick mash as I recollect, it didn't go to waste), but vegetarian isn't the same as not cannibals.


ARTICLE  Animal happiness matters. But how do we know what that is?

I'm with you on that one.  The 'vegetarian' claim is, as you suggest, because people are freaked out by animal byproducts going into animal feed.  This has some basis in reality (e.g. the mad cow problem), but it doesn't make much sense for chickens which, as you point out, are voracious little omnivores.  

How golden is golden? Is there such thing as over baking crust? Will it get too tough? (You're going to say it's personal preference, right? LOL)

Yup, color is a personal preference. Golden to me is a moderate brown...not too dark, not too light. But, also know that various washes that you put on a pie can also change the color. For example, an egg white wash gives a nice shine to the top; an egg yolk wash gives a more golden appearance as will a full egg wash (yolk and white). Each would be mixed with a little water before brushing on. And adding 1-2 T of sugar to the dough for a sweet pie will also increase the color. And, if you sprinkle a little sugar on top, it too will add to the color during the bake. I sprinkle on sugar during the last 20 minutes of the bake with one of those mesh tea strainers  so it doesn't get too brown. The mesh strainer makes for a really even sprinkle. And yes, you can over bake a crust. Don't let it go so long that the fat gets baked out which can easily happen around the edges.

At risk of adding to the pile of Olympics-related food questions today... What should I serve Friday night during the opening ceremonies? It's just me and a pal, and I'd rather serve "dinner-equivalent" appetizers than an actual dinner so we don't have to leave the couch. Also, although I love to cook and am pretty good at it, I'm not going to have a lot of time to actually do it--probably just after work Friday. Ideas welcome!

Good timing -- I'm working on a recipe roundup (to be online tomorrow morning) addressing just that. Stay tuned. 

I wish there was a local bakery that hosted watching parties and made each week's technical challenge so we could try them! I would totally support that as a kickstarter.


ARTICLE 'The Great British Baking Show' recap, Ep. 8 

What a great idea! I'm totally on board with that too. 

Last year, when BBC was airing these episodes in the U.K., local British food truck Sixes & Sevens was making recipes from the show (and donating the proceeds to a local charity, natch). Maybe the owner or someone else will decide to pick up the concept!


ARTICLE: Eat like a 'Great British Baking Show' judge at the Sixes & Sevens food truck

Food folks baked for a finale-watching party -- that was fun. Shall we do it again, Becky?

You mean after all I've baked for these recaps? :-p

I am an amateur baker obsessed with "The Great British Baking Show!" So is rough puff pastry just American pie dough? (looks like it!) Where can I find a British-American baking dictionary? Googling just seems to confuse me further. I'm fascinated by all the new crusts (hot water!?) and techniques on GBBS and would love more of a primer.

I'm not sure if it is exclusively an American thing. I do use some rough puff techniques in my pie dough (a few folds before I cut it into two disks and chill) to give it some extra layers. Here is one recipe that I think is excellent for a rough puff.

Many thanks to Bonnie for her suggestion from last week’s chat (July 27th) about reheating fried chicken. I got another 8-piece all-dark package at the deli just to try the reheating instructions for two thighs and two drumsticks left over! Per Bonnie’s suggestion, I wrapped each thigh in foil, although the two drumsticks ended up in one piece of foil. The foil was wrapped all the way around each piece but not so tightly as to be difficult to unwrap. I put the foil packages on a small baking pan and stuck them in my toaster oven at 300 degrees for 15 minutes, then took them out of the oven and turned the heat up to 400. I took the chicken out of the foil, placed the pieces back on the baking pan, and stuck them back in the toaster oven for 5 minutes to crisp the skin. The chicken turned out pretty darn good! Better than any of my previous attempts at reheating fried chicken, that’s for sure. The meat was warmed all the way through but still moist and tasty, and the skin crisped up nicely. I thought it needed perhaps a minute more of time for crisping, but my husband thought it was perfect. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

:) Thanks for reporting back! 

Isn't it a dead giveaway that chickens don't have meaningful access to the outdoors if they are labeled as vegetarian? Because I always thought that the scratching behavior was looking for bugs and that given the option, chickens would eat bugs. So if the producer can be sure they didn't eat bugs, they can't have given them any access to an environment in which there are bugs.

In my experience, any self-respecting chicken will take *any* opportunity to eat bugs.  But sometimes "outdoor access" doesn't mean pasture.  Some chicken houses have porches, or yards that are fenced but are just packed dirt.  Although a chicken might grab a stray bug or two, the birds aren't necessarily foraging for them.

I have a comment more than a question. I use a Dorie G recipe for my crust with which I'm well satisfied. The problem is that I'm looking for apple nirvana and not finding it. I live in an area where they grow lots of apples but the varieties are just ordinary. A pie is only as good as the fruit and I get very frustrated by having boring, bland apples. I'm not sure what the solution is, other than to grow my own.

I use a combination of sweet and tart apples. I get as many as I can, some for sweet, some for tart, some that hold their shape, and some that don't. Every bite is a flavor and textural sensation. Taste before you buy to make sure the fruit has flavor. And I don't peel either. Tanins in the skin add to flavor.

I needed a bit of tahini for a dish and ended up having to buy a huge bottle. Does anyone have some creative suggestions for how to use it other than a dip, please? I actually saw a recipe for tahini cookies, but not so sure about that, haha...

Tahini cookies are so, so great -- they melt in your mouth and are perfect with coffee (preferably cardamom-spiked). Think of them as a cousin to peanut butter cookies, if that helps! I actually made some no-bake chocolate oat cookies the other week but used tahini instead of peanut butter -- definitely recommend it, but the finished cookie could be a little sturdier, since tahini is in general much thinner than peanut butter. More testing coming soon.

Elsewhere, I like to use tahini in dressings/sauces (great on grilled eggplant or other roasted veggies) or stirred into noodles (again like peanut noodles but with sesame.) It's also great in banana bread. Give one of these a shot:

Noodles With Spicy Sauce

RECIPE: Noodles With Spicy Sauce

Mayo-Free Coleslaw

RECIPE: Mayo-Free Coleslaw

Crisped Cauliflower With Lemon Tahini Sauce

RECIPE: Crisped Cauliflower With Lemon Tahini Sauce

Fish With Green Tahini

RECIPE: Fish With Green Tahini

And last but not least, cooooookies:

RECIPE: Sweet Tahinis

Would you defrost and drain first? I'm a little concerned about moisture; I've worked with frozen cranberries before for a pie with great success, but they're much drier than the blueberries and strawberries I'd like to use this summer.

I don't defrost as it makes for too much juice. I use the frozen fruit just as if it were fresh. You may have to add a few more minutes (5-10) at the end of the bake. Cranberries have a heck of alot of pectin to you don't need much in the way of thickener. I use only about 2 teaspoons of cornstarch. 

I made my family peanut butter noodles with fresh ginger. I loved them, and I thought the ginger was great. But my husband and children complained about the ginger, saying it was too strong. Since it is such an easy summer dish, I'm wondering if there is any way to tone down the ginger so it is more kid-friendly while still leaving it in. For example, how do you think it would work with sauteeing the ginger or replacing fresh ginger with ginger powder? Thanks!

Try using fresh, young ginger instead -- it has less heat, and seems to be more available these days (at farmers markets, at least and typically at Asian markets). You can tell it's young because it has not yet formed that papery brown skin.


ARTICLES Growing baby ginger: Farmers find it's worth the fuss; where to buy baby ginger

I am so glad to see chickens being given more room, better feed, etc. But my puzzlement is over "free range." So many love chicken dinners: foxes, dogs, etc. Anyone who has kept chickens know that they must be safe from predators.

It's the liberty vs. security trade-off! It's a very important (and not easy) balance to strike (which is why I talked about it so much in the piece).

With an abundance of squash appearing in my CSA bag, I’ve been trying fritters, among other things. They are…..OK. The various recipes call, generally, for 3 cups grated squash, 1 cup grated onion, 1/2 to 1 cup flour, S&P, an egg or two. I’ve squeezed the liquid out of the vegetables, cut the flour back to 1/2 cup, substituted masa for wheat flour, added parsley and paprika. Not only are they (still) bland, but they don’t seem quite done, despite being flattened and well browned. They taste flour-y. Any ideas?

I would double or triple your seasoning and see if that helps.

Can you wait just a few weeks? Centrolina chef-owner Amy Brandwein shared a terrific recipe with us for #PlateLab. 

One aspect missing from the article on outdoor access for chickens was food safety for people who eat these poultry products. Research suggests that as access to rodents, flies, cats and other birds increases, that eggs and poultry meat are more likely to be contaminated with salmonella. How many additional people are you willing to let die in order for birds to get outdoor access. The percent may be low, but with 300 million people per year, the number is non inconsequential. Also how many additional chickens are you willing to let die if they get to go outdoors as opposed to staying indoors. Death loss can double, triple or even quadruple when you compare chickens raised cage free indoors vs chickens who can go outside. Over the US layer flock, that is millions of birds each year who will die and millions more which will get sick and suffer.

The research I've seen shows comparable pathogen levels in birds raised in different systems.  Got a reference?

I got some at Frederick farmers market... it's like a cross between roasted garlic and has some darker flavors from balsamic vinegar, without having a strong odor or being potent as raw garlic. I know I can sub it for regular garlic in most recipes, but what will showcase the flavors well (vegetarian)?

I think it's more of a great underpinning than a star flavor -- it adds depth to marinades and rubs, vinaigrettes. That said, try the recipe below! I would use it in any recipes that call for roasted garlic.

ARTICLE Black garlic, the next 'it' ingredient

RECIPE Fingerling Potato Salad With Gribiche

I make pickle relish every year for my many family members. When a batch ends up with an extra bit, I refrigerate it and then add it to the next batch of boiling vegetables. Someone just told me it's dangerous to do this, so I'm hoping Cathy Barrow is available to let me know if what I'm doing is lethal or safe. (It is her recipe I use.) Thanks.

She says:

If you are making batches on consecutive days, that’s not a terrible thing to do. But if you plan on waiting days or weeks between batches, please don’t save that little bit and add it in. 


When I have a little leftover, it goes in the refrigerator and I try to use it within a month.

Went a little crazy at the farmers market and came home with jalapenos, shishitos and poblanos. Can these be blanched and frozen? Or any other ideas on using them up? Thanks!

There are so many ways to preserve peppers. I'd pickle the jalapenos or shishitos. They'll keep for at least a month. Roast and peel the poblanos and cut into strips. These rajas (rags) are a fantastic addition to tacos or stews. The rajas will freeze, layer them between parchment sheets and then wrap in plastic or place in a freezer bag. 

Hi Chatters. To people who miss episodes of GBBS, the show airs on WETA's UK channel (26.2) around 8:30 on Sunday nights with a repeat Monday. Maryland's station (MPT,22.1) have aired back to back episodes (up to now) on Fridays, starting around 9:30-9:40pm and repeats same after midnight. Warning, they are in the quarterfinals on MPT, with four bakers left.

That's so very PSA of you.

Hello Food folks! Would appreciate any help finding a recipe for peach cobbler that is gluten-free. Not a crisp, not a crumble, but a cobbler. I am cooking for a friend who's been craving once since being told she's got CD and I'd love to surprise her. Many thanks in advance.

I would swap out regular gluten-full flour with any gluten free mix. Here's the recipe for mine that I use for all my baking. 

I hate making pie crust. No matter how hard I try, I always end up with a patchwork-y crust that is only okay and fruit that has cooked down and left a gaping void at the top. I have given up and only make graham cracker crust pies now. Is there a simpler way, and less frustrating way?

Don't give up. Patience and perseverance are two of the skills one can learn from making pie crust. Think of water as "super glue."


You can put a little bead of water on the back of the  pieces that are breaking and press them together firmly...maybe give a little roll on top too. I had a pie make the cover of a magazine once that was a "jig saw puzzle pie."

Practice makes perfect with pie dough. 

An ice cream recipe in the cookbook "Nopi" calls for liquid glucose. My internet search turned up divided opinions about whether corn syrup would work as a substitute. I couldn't find liquid glucose in my local supermarket (I'm not in the DMV area). Any thoughts on a substitute?

I have not experimented with liquid glucose vs. corn syrup myself, but a quick search of the Internetz indicates that the latter has a higher water content. That will likely affect the consistency of your ice cream. You may need to adjust the other cream/milk amounts.


Chatters, anyone have experience playing with corn syrup vs. liquid glucose?

I just got a jam and jelly maker - which I am so excited to use! I'm just wondering if you know if I can use this for any recipe? I'm mostly thinking of the delicious strawberry jam recipe that uses a granny smith apple as a thickener.

I haven't used any of the automatic jam makers, so I'm not sure the recipe would work in exactly the same way. I suggest making one of the recipes in the booklet packed with the maker!

Thank you for the great recipe, Cathy. I love making pies and like you mention, always get nervous about making slab pies. You mention using plums or apricots and that you don't need to peel those fruits. Do you think that would be the case with nectarines?


RECIPE Fruit Slab Pie

As a matter of fact, I know it works with nectarines! I made a nectarine and blackberry slab pie last weekend. Divine. 

I've had amazing scrambled eggs at buffet breakfasts at various DC hotels where I attended conferences. Obviously, they're using some ingredient/s I haven't tried at home but I've no idea what they are. Some were creamy, some crumbly, some firm, but all sat in a chafing dish for an hour or so and still tasted infinitely better than my freshly-made equivalent at home. Any guesses what they use?

John Boehner's tears? (You know, lots of salt...)

I have no idea, but would be curious. And truth be told, I've never encountered a buffet breakfast scrambled egg that I've liked -- where do you find these mythical creatures? 

What else? Brazil's national dish, Feijoada, classically served with sides of shredded cabbage and thin orange slices.

I'm not sure if pineapple guavas grow in Brazil but I do make a guava pie that takes like tropical perfume. Follow this recipe but sub in the guavas. 

I was overzealous in my grocery shopping and have two containers of strawberries and a pint of blueberries left in my fridge and I'm going away. I am going to throw the blueberries in the freezer to use later for cakes. But the strawberries-what's the best way to freeze them? slice and freeze? freeze whole? thanks!

Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper. Lay the whole berries flat in one layer. Freeze. Transfer to dated freezer bags. Use within 6 months or so. 

I bought a frozen pizza that wouldn't fit in the freezer, so I put in the 'fridge. I think it should be safe for 2 days, don't you? -- but I don't know how to adjust cooking time from 10-12 minutes at 450 for a frozen pizza. It's thin crust and has chicken and onions, cheese and tomato sauce. Grazie!

First, you must promise that it has only defrosted in the refrigerator, and not out on the counter. Now, figure it'll take about that same time to bake, but reduce the oven temp to 400 degrees.


Next, promise you'll try this Quad Cities-Style Pizza. Bet it beats what you bought!

Unfortunately, I didn't get to ask this question last week, when Michael Stebner was participating, but I'm pretty sure the Post staff will have some answers! I would love to find some vegetable salads -- and dressings -- that will keep for at least a few days in the fridge. Anything with greens silts quickly, and most dressing recipes state that they'll last about a week in the fridge. Even if the recipe can be halved, I still end up using the dressing every day to finish in the allotted time, which gets a little boring. Any suggestions?

Cook's Illustrated recently wrote about this. Their solution was a mix of vegetable and olive oils. Lasts up to a week. Check it out.

Finding good apples is the hardest part. I look for apples at farmers markets in the fall, or on a drive up into apple orchard country in Pennsylvania. I try and do a variety also, heirloom if I can get them. But never Granny Smith.

Using as many different varieties as you can get sure makes for a wonderful apple pie!

I like to look for a crisp variety that will hold its shape and mix in a couple of apples that are good for sauce, to give body to the filling.

yeah, that actually sounds awesome to me! Can I sub regular whole wheat flour for the rice flour? And sugar instead of agave?

Hmm I'd say it's worth a shot, but I'd guess you may need less sugar than agave or maybe more liquid... Other star bakers out there, what do you say? 

Or there's this recipe from Tel Aviv blogger/baker Natalie Levin, on David Lebovitz's blog -- it'll produce a more shortbread-textured cookie. 

I attend Thanksgiving in CT every year and am in charge of desserts. However- good apples (particularly of the pick your own strand) are gone by the time the holiday rolls around and I'm stuck rooting through grocery bins. Can I pick a good bunch in October when I visit and freeze them somehow? Or am I stuck with bottom of the barrel apples when trying to make a pie?

You can freeze but that would be my last choice. Try this. Put all the ingredients of the filling into a braising pan. Start to cook on medium low until you can just start to get a fork in. Cool complete. Store in dated freezer bags. When you are ready to make the pie. Bring the bag out and set on the counter while you make and roll out the dough. By the time you are ready to fill the pan, the fruit will be partially thawed. Bake as usual. Oh, and the partially cooked apples will have already done their slump so you may not get that big cavernous gap between the top of the filing and the underside of the top crust. 

I've been told (I've never tried it at home) that adding small amounts of either pancake batter or artificial egg whites makes scrambled eggs creamier (batter) or lighter (egg whites) than usual.


I am adapting a zucchini muffin recipe for my daughter's birthday. I am going to add cream cheese frosting to make it more like a cupcake. Can I freeze the muffins? Do I have to defrost the muffins before I put on the frosting? And, at the party, which will be outdoors, how long can these muffins be outside with cream cheese frosting?

Go ahead and freeze those muffins. No need to defrost before icing. How long outside? An hour or two should be fine.

Maybe the frosting would adhere to the muffins (frosted muffin = cupcake?) a bit better if they were defrosted at least 15 mins or so.

And I'd like to cook them, but have them available as an easy to use ingredient, rather than make something specific out of them. Should I make mashed cauliflower? Or roasted cubes? I'm not sure how they will preserve and/or freeze best.

Fully cooked cauliflower is high in water content and won't freeze well. Better to cut the cauliflower into equal sized, large-ish florets, blanch (dunk in boiling water), drain, and freeze on a parchment lined baking sheet. When frozen through, stash the cauliflower in a ziptop bag in the freezer. I use them in curries and stews. 

What about Kansas City BBQ? What makes you think Charleston has the best BBQ in the Land?

      I like Kansas City barbecue. And central Texas barbecue. And Memphis barbecue. And North Carolina barbecue. And Alabama barbecue. And, well, barbecue from all sorts of places. 

      The story wasn't about what I think is best. It is about something different that is going on in a way I haven't seen before, at least not this much in a given place. 

      I like all good barbecue. The only barbecue I don't like is bad barbecue.

Due to the fickle nature of pregnancy appetite, I am stuck with more salmon than my husband and daughter can eat, but it is totally turning me off. A little went in a frittata and became palatable, but I need other ideas to keep it from all going to waste. Any help?

How about a creamy pasta dish? Saute a shallot or two, add the salmon, add slightly undercooked pasta and a bit of the pasta water to cook through. Stir in creme fraiche or a good dollop of heavy cream. Top with a lot of fresh chives.

I'm very excited that Cathy has a new column! And it sounds wonderful. Any preview of what kinds of things we can expect to see in the coming months?

I'm excited that she has it, too! 

I have dozens of recipes ready to roll out -- everything from breakfast to salads and main dishes!

For the chatter asking about food for Olympics viewing, I am going to be making heart of palm pie! My sister's hubby is Brazilian, so I emailed his mother for suggestions. She sent me a couple recipes for the pie, which she and her husband have at the holidays, and also a recipe for little muffin like things that have hearts of palm inside. A search on Pinterest will turn up tons of Brazilian recipes, also, and I've decided to try Brigadeiros (sp?) which are little chocolate truffles made with sweetened condensed milk. We're looking forward to trying the new recipes over the two Olympics weekends.

Thanks for the heads up about Heart of Palm Pie. That's a new one for me!

The farm I get my eggs from has three Great Pyrenee mixes that keep all predators away from the pastured hens. The hen houses are actually repurposed cotton trailers that they move every couple of days. I have no idea how they train the hens to go inside at dusk, but they all do.

Large dogs are an excellent predator-fighting strategy (and Great Pyrenees are a personal favorite).  And one of the truly great things about chickens is that they go home at dusk of their own accord.  No training required!

Word on Great Pyrenees. My husband's grandparents had them for many years on their farm, where there are chickens and goats and sheep. The other guard animals standing sentinel against the coyotes: Donkeys.

I should have added that the dogs keep airplanes away, too, not just hawks.

And when I had chickens, they let my dog know who was in charge...and it wasn't her! 

Hah, that was a good one. I don't know about the long sitting time, but when I make scrambled eggs for a crowd I make them in a double boiler, and allow the curds to get pretty big before stirring. That makes them creamy, along with um, using cream and butter.

Ah, great tips. And yes, cream and butter are certainly useful, aren't they?

I started using half and half and an extra yolk or two in mine. Love it. So creamy.

Greek zucchini fritters might work better for the person with the excess squash. This is a good recipe. If you want to look up other recipes, they are called Kolokithokeftedes in Greek.

Speaking of, check out this fab Greek zucchini pie in Food today. 

Jim Shahin: For rookie barbecue folks, what would you suggest for the two or three best ways to start? Pork? Fish? Help!!

       Sometimes the simplest questions are the toughest. This is one of those. I guess I would start with what you like the most. That, plus how much time you have for playing with fire. 

       Starting with fish, especially steaks, like swordfish and salmon, is good because they are hard to mess up. Roughly five minutes per side and you've got it. Actually, the same could be said of a pork chop. 

      As you get more comfortable with the fire, you might then move on to bigger items, like pork shoulder, which is more about smoking than grilling. 

       What I suppose I'm saying is this: start small with food you enjoy, then work up to longer cooks. 

Seems he's been gone a long time. If he got a new job, I hope it's a good one. :-)

He's coming back, fear not.

Use it in rice pilaf as the main flavor, or even just bury it in the rice in your rice cooker (or stovetop pot if you're one of those brave people who does stovetop rice). Then serve the stuff as a bed for lightly stirfried vegetables, or (non-veg alert) under properly cooked free-ish range chicken thighs.

I really enjoyed Jim Shahin's article on South Carolina BBQ - intriguing blend of the new and the traditional! While I'm usually a vinegar-and-pepper sauce kind of guy, I also enjoy a SC mustard sauce. Do you have any suggestions on how to get creative with this, maybe thinking about summer and/or fall flavors? Thanks!

       Add habaneros or peach to the mustard sauce. Each go well with it, and both add a distinctive personality. 

       I should note that, as mentioned in one of the sidebars, some folks blend some ketchup and mustard together. Hey, if you like them together on a hot dog, why not in a bbq sauce?

Hi there! I have ten pounds of squash from my CSA and don't want to just saute it all in olive oil! I have picked out some of the good shapes for me but what can I do with the rest? I hope Joe is enjoying his time away but you are doing a great job I love these chats!

Try making zucchini boats! With the larger specimens, slice in half vertically, then hollow out the center, leaving a thick wall, but making enough room to add back some stuffing. Saute something delicious for the center with the scooped out zucchini and onions, rice or bulgar or wheat berries, salt, pepper and a spice mixture like Ras al Hanout or Za'atar or fresh herbs.  If you wish, add cooked ground meat (turkey, lamb, beef?) Stuff the zucchini with the mixture, line up the boats in a baking dish and put a can of tomatoes or stock or water in the bottom of the pan. Cover with foil and bake until the zucchini boats are tender and the filling is heated through.

We get a veggie box, and I sometimes end up with way too much lettuce-- and not just spinach or iceberg or kale, but stuff like red leaf lettuce. Other than salads and lettuce soup (which I have yet to try), how else I use up all these greens? Can I cook them at all?

I use the big leaves to wrap up a sandwich fillings. Works great especially if you are gluten free, too. 

I live in the PNW and a few years back visited a plant nursery that had an outdoor area and some free-range chickens. I picked up a pot, and a hen swooped in and ate the slug that had been underneath the pot. From then on, the hen followed us around the nursery, cocking her head at pots, a clear request that we pick up pots for her to forage beneath. They may not be the smartest animals, but they can be crafty, and definitely are not vegetarians by choice.

I love that story!  Yeah, your average chicken isn't the sharpest quill on the porcupine, but they're pretty good at figuring out food issues.  When I cut up a melon, I bring out the seeds and the pieces of rind -- the seeds come out first, so they're at the bottom of the bowl, with the rind pieces on top.  I walk into the chicken house and put the rind on the floor, but they totally ignore it (although they like melon) because they know the seeds (which they love -- high in fat and protein) are the last to come out.  Only after they've eaten the seeds do they peck at the rind.

Any rec's on how to preserve/save fresh salsa? When I make it I make a bunch. Freezing didn't seem to work (texture was wrong). Thanks in advance!

Because of the high pH (low acidity), salsa is a category of food that requires careful preservation. The safest salsas to preserve are cooked and most often are pressure canned. (The high pH makes boiling water canning unsafe for most salsa recipes.) Often, for those people who prefer the flavor of fresh salsa, a fermented salsa is a good alternative.  

I'm the poster who wrote in several weeks ago looking for recipes to help me get over my dislike of chard. Huge thank you for all the great ideas - I've come to love it, especially the swiss chard pesto and this recipe with preserved lemon, which reminded me of the chatter who just sautes it in garlic and chili flakes. 

I sauté it with garlic and put a couple of poached eggs on top. A splash of a good balsamic. One of my fav breakfasts!

To the person who hates making crusts, keep at it! I'm living proof it gets easier. I fought with them for years (because I'm stubborn), then finally they started coming together. The day I made my first curseless crust (I would yell an expletive and chuck the failed crust in the garbage) I almost cried. Haven't chucked a batch in years.

Good for you! That's how to do it. Slow and steady...and keeping on trying is how to learn to do anything well. 

I love the way Greeks cook green beans, mixed with chunks of zucchini, tomato, onion, olive oil and Greek herbs and spices.

Kate, please tell us why the barley flour/cornmeal and why the grapefruit juice in your crust. I've never seen those before. I'm sure there's a reason for each, but I didn't see it in the paper this morning. I've seen vodka to reduce gluten formation, so maybe that plus acid is why the grapefruit? Thank you!

A heads up: The Blueberry-Nectarine Lattice Pie was from Genevieve Ko's upcoming "Better Baking" cookbook, fyi. 

That recipe is not mine. Acid of any kind (citrus, vinegar, etc) is a known as a gluten retardant. But I can't speak to the barley flour/cornmeal. 

We found the barley flour/cornmeal added a little sweetness and texture to the crust.

Some Key lime pie recipes don't call for baking, even though they use up to a half-dozen egg yolks. Other recipes involve oven time. I used a no-cook recipe for years and no-one ever became ill. The only down-side was that the pie, once out of the freezer, doesn't hold its shape for long, much like ice-cream. But with all this discussion of what chickens eat and things like salmonella, I'm thinking maybe I should turn on the oven. Your experience and opinions? Has GBBS looked at this?

Salmonella is nothing to be taken lightly. I would use recipes that call for cooking the egg. 

Using pasteurized eggs is one way to go.

If you have a good flatbread recipe, do this: roll out the flatbreads to the usual size, then paint the surface with some tahini. Roll up into a snake with the tahini in the middle, then wrap into a coil. Let rise for half an hour or so. Then sprinkle on some sesame seeds or other seeds, mist with water to keep the seeds stuck on, and bake. Heavenly.

Brb, running home to make this.

I've got a few pounds of shiro plums - they're yellow, round and about the size of a golf ball. I've never cooked with them before and was wondering if anyone had any tips to keep in mind. I'm thinking about a plum cake, but most of the recipes I've seen call for Italian prune plums - think a swap would work?

Prune plums have a much lower water content than the shiro, so I don't think they'll make a good swap. When I have the early season plums like shiro and the red juicy round ones, I like to scatter slices on an open faced tart. Try a savory route with goat cheese and some thyme. 

For chatter who are growing their own zucchini, the best tip is to pick Every. Single. Day. That way you can get the squash while it's still small, and its seeds and skin haven't gotten tough yet.

Also, when you get it small, there's less of it, and your problem is a fraction the size.


Zucchini hater

A few years ago, Cook's Illustrated did a piece on how to make The Best scrambled eggs. Conclusion: add a little cornstarch. Unfortunately, I don't remember the exact ratio. Cornstarch is supposed to keep them tender & fluffy. Cornstarch is also good for making tender meat, they say.

Ding ding ding, we may have a winner. 

Further reading:


"The Genius Trick for Magically Creamy Scrambled Eggs (in 15 Seconds)" on Food52.

"Achieve Perfectly Creamy Scrambled Eggs with Milk and Cornstarch" on

Talking about blanching/par-boiling food with my aunt, she mentioned her frustration with freezing cabbage for fall/winter use that still has some texture. Short of pickling or freezing it raw, I can't think of any other option either. Could blanching shredded cabbage for a minute then plunging it in cold water do the trick?

Cabbage is best when preserved as sauerkraut. Blanching won't help!

They might be less liquid-y if you used grated potato as part of the vegetable component. Sort of like a zucchini-potato latke.

I'm tired of the same old barbecue side dishes (baked beans, cole slaw, etc.) but I'm also not a great chef. What are some other unusual side dishes which will go well with barbecued meats, but that aren't too terribly hard to prepare?

       Start by kicking the mayo-based stuff to the curb. Okay, that's a little harsh. I love the stuff, but it does get a little heavy as an accompaniment to rich meats. 

        Use grated ginger, rice vinegar, cider vinegar, some soy sauce, and torn basil for a different take on coleslaw. Try evoo and fresh squeezed lemon with minced garlic, a sprinkle of crushed hot red pepper, and a handful or two of fresh mint for your next potato salad. 

        For beans, try making relatively simple pintos rather than the (usually over-sweet) baked beans. 

        After that, do whatever you like. You can smoke cauliflower and add some black olives, red onion and capers and dress it all in a nice vinaigrette. Or grill some broccoli rabe and toss with nothing more complicated than a little olive oil and sea salt. 

        Think about what you make as side dishes in the kitchen and take them outside to the grill. 

A few weeks back I asked you to recommend a tofu recipe for my meat-loving friends, and Killer Tofu was one recommendation. I was apprehensive about serving it, but they LOVED it (me too)! Thanks so much - everyone should try this recipe.

Thanks very much for reporting back.

Killer Tofu

RECIPE: Killer Tofu

What are your thoughts on this, please? I've heard it makes the filling a bit slimy/cloudy, but I don't make enough pies to be able to tell. I've also heard of adding one kiwi, as it won't noticeably change the flavor of the pie, but kiwi contains a lot of pectin. Is your cornstarch your preferred thickener? Thanks!

My preferred thickener is quick cooking tapioca or tapioca flour also known as tapioca starch. I haven't heard about the kiwi, but I know that adding a diced up quince can help as that fruit has lots of pectin. I use cornstarch for cranberry pie (about 2 don't need much), and for stove top fillings like lemon meringue, and flour for apple and pear. It's also to mix thickeners with especially juicy fruit. Tapioca gives a lovely clear appearance with fruit like sour cherries, too. When using tapioca make sure you see steady bubbling coming through the vents. Then let the pie sit and cool so it can set up properly. 

Kate McDermott is the best pie teacher ever! I took one of her classes a few years ago, and in just a few hours, she taught me how to be a pie expert! Kate, when are you coming back to DC to share the love? Your are the BEST!!! Signed, a Pie Sister

Well, thank you so much! I'm working on next year's schedule and will have some dates fairly soon. Be Happy, Keep Making Pie! 

I'm a mostly-vegetarian and an eager cook with a carnivorous husband who doesn't get to eat meat as often as he'd like due to my dietary preferences. For his birthday, I want to make him something amazing and meaty. No expense or amount of effort is too great! He doesn't mind spicy food and ethnic flavors, but equally enjoys a good old fashioned steak. Any recipe recommendations? Thank you!!

Maybe it's not the season, but I immediately thought of this cassoulet.

A Cassoulet of Lentils, Duck, Lamb and Sausage

RECIPE: A Cassoulet of Lentils, Duck, Lamb and Sausage

I also think there's something really beautiful and special about a roast chicken.

Thai Roast Chicken

RECIPE: Thai Roast Chicken

Garam Masala Roast Chicken

RECIPE: Garam Masala Roast Chicken

Gastronomer Roast Chicken and Potatoes

RECIPE: Gastronomer Roast Chicken and Potatoes

Hey Jim, the array of styles/sauces in both of the Carolinas is a bit confusing/overwhelming to me. Can you give me a quick run down?

       Eastern North Carolina: vinegar-pepper sauce and whole hog. 

        Western North Carolina: vinegar-pepper sauce with a little tomato or ketchup added and pork shoulder.

         Pee Dee region (northeast coast) of SC: vinegar-pepper sauce, similar to eastern NC, whole hog and pork shoulder. 

         Midlands region of SC: mustard sauce; also, less common but not exactly uncommon, a mustard-ketchup blend. Pork shoulder. 

          Upstate/Mountains region of SC: ketchup-based sauces. Pork shoulder. 

          NC typically will add coleslaw to the sandwiches. 

          SC has a thick brownish gravy called hash that is a pretty standard side dish. 

          That is a rough overview.





Anything with passion fruit in it ("maracujá"). Or the uniquely Brazilian soft drink Guaraná.

Or cachaca

When I use pecan or cherry for smoking it seems like I could just use hickory. I really don't taste any differences here. If anything i only see a difference between mesquite and hickory. Am I missing somehing?

       I find cherry and pecan to be fairly closely related as well. But I do think it depends partly on what you are cooking and how long you are cooking it. I find that pecan is a touch more assertive, but not like, say, hickory in its way or mesquite in its. 

        Because it can be acrid over long periods, I use mesquite for quick grilling of steaks and fish. For long cooks, I like the note of assertiveness that hickory adds, but I always blend it with something more mild, like oak, and often not only oak but (wait for it) cherry or pecan.

I don't know about hotel scrambled, but I get the most compliments on mine when I use cream in the eggs and butter in the pan. High quality fat does make a difference (of course, they are higher calorie).

I *always* use Granny Smith apples in pies. I love the tart flavor and the fact that they don't get mushy. I grew up on MacIntosh apples, but these days I'm happier with Grannies.

I think they are great in pies too, and I always have one or two mixed in with some apples that are sweet. 

What is it that gives salsa a high pH? Most are loaded with tomatoes which are acidic.

This is a common misconception. While tomatoes are "acidic,"  the pH is too low for safe boiling water bath canning without the addition of citric acid or vinegar or lemon juice. Adding garlic and onions to the tomatoes to make salsa further lowers the pH, beyond the point where the balance can be maintained simply with citric acid. Some recipes will add sufficient vinegar, but that changes the flavor. 

We have found in our travels abroad that eggs in the USA have pale yellow yolks and are bland. This is true even of the more expensive ones available at Whole Foods. Most recently, in Japan, the egg yolks were bright orange and full of flavor. Do chickens abroad just eat better? My theory is that USA chickens are stuffed with corn and corn only. (That vegetarian diet again...)

Funny you should ask. A crack investigative food journalist (ahem ... I mean me) tackled the issue of eggs and flavor. After rigorous testing, she determined that all eggs taste the same.  But they don't look the same! My chickens' eggs are that nice bright color (and it varies with their diet), and many eggs I've seen from backyard or free-roaming birds are the same.  It is diet, but it doesn't affect taste.


ARTICLE Backyard eggs vs. store-bought: They taste the same

I've too have heard that it is the choice of feed that makes the color deeper...or not.

My late father would steam zucchini chunks, then serve with butter and fresh-grated Parmesan cheese.

Jim Shahin - any thoughts on VA BBQ? Seems the state gets overlooked.

        Funny you should ask. I am currently writing a profile piece on a guy named Joe Haynes, who is an evangelist for Virginia barbecue. He has a book coming out in September called "Virginia Barbecue: A History." My story on him will be out in a few weeks. 

sign me up!!

I'll let Bonnie know when I'm coming. And in the meantime, keep a lookout at too. 

My friends won't take any more. Even the squirrels and birds seem sick of them, but I still have tons in my garden and more to come. Any ideas?

And more to come in our Tomato issue in a few weeks! BTW, some of you have been asking about a reader recipe contest this year....we gave everyone a chance to regroup but be assured that you'll still find some great ideas at @WaPoFood.

Have so many green beans from the garden!--I'd love a way to do quick fridge pickles (no canning bath). Any thoughts or recipes on spices and brining liquid? I like dill, but I'd like them not to taste like dill pickles.

You don't need to can this recipe!

I'll try to go through some calendars and let you know next week which hotel eggs impressed me. I was daydreaming about it this morning when another of my homemade concoctions was less than wonderful. Thanks to the poster of the cornstarch reference -- I was thinking I might have to track down John Boehner ;) !

How about picking one of the many many Middle Eastern specialty breads and working with it? There's a whole world of interesting Arab/Persian/etc breads baking in not-loaf format out there.

Thanks for the suggestion. We shall see if we decide to go down this road again. Bagels took over my life for weeks...

"Acid of any kind (citrus, vinegar, etc) is a known as a gluten retardant." Does that mean less gluten in the finished product, or is it slower-acting or something?

It is said to reduce the formation of gluten strands. 

Good lord, chickens will peck to death and eat each other. People are really worried about them eating bugs?

I don't think most people are worried about the chickens. They're worried about themselves, and the "ick" factor of feeding animal byproducts to chickens.  I think just about everyone is OK with chickens eating bugs.

Whatever happened to Pippins?? When I was a child in the 1970s, they were always available in the store, right next to the (boring) Red Delicious and Golden Delicious apples. My mom always told me the Pippins were for baking. At some point, they disappeared, probably in the 1980s. With all the varieties in stores now (Fuji, Gala, McIntosh, Pink Lady, etc.), why haven't the Pippins come back??

They have come back, but you'll likely have to seek them out at a farmers market. That's the only place I've seen them. 

Hoping they are from happy chickens, but not so sure about that. Anyway, they were on sale, and I overbought. Can you please suggest some good, tried and true (not boring) recipes? Thanks in advance.

One of my favorites: Chicken, Leek and Parsley Pie

Chicken Leek Parsley Pie

Oh that savory pie looks yummy!

My family loves a good schnitzel

Barbecue Chicken Wraps are a good lunch option. 

Barbecue Chicken Wraps With Celery and Sprouts

How to start WWIII: it ain't BBQ. It's meats smothered with sauce. That's about it.

      Okay, then...

How do you tell if kimchi has gone bad? I've had a half-empty jar in the refrigerator for maybe 3 months. If you think I should toss the cabbage, do you think the liquid can be reused?

If you see mold, then it has gone bad, but I've never had kimchi go bad even after several months. It's preserved, after all. I would not reuse the liquid. Make a fresh batch yourself. Go ahead, it's fun. 

I could of be recalling wrong, but I thought kiwi inhibits gelling rather than promoting it. I'd look to other thickeners.

Sounds like some experiments are in order in my kitchen. 

Seem to recall hearing long ago that adding marigold petals to chickens' diet makes the yolks a deeper yellow. Any truth to that?

Well, I've never tried it, but it seems like it would work. If you do the experiment, report back!

Do what an old Sylvia cartoon recommended: mix it with plain yogurt and throw it out the window.

Mix tahini with a drop of honey and a sprinkle of kosher salt, and dip in apple slices. I love it better than peanut butter and apple because the slightly bitter edge of the tahini adds complexity to the flavor combination.


The egg yolk is high in fat. So any fat soluble pigment in the diet will change the color of the yolk. You can feed the chickens fat soluble food safe dyes and make the yolks blue or purple or green (a professor in college did that). Chickens fed lots of wheat will have pale colored yolks. many commercial egg companies will add marigold or other yellow pigments to the diet to meet consumer expectations of yellow color in the yolk. Corn results in a more yellow yolk than does barley, wheat, oats or other grains like that.

And here I just answered the question about marigolds with an "I don't know" when there was an expert in the house!  Thanks for filling us in.

I had trouble with crusts till I stopped using any shortening in them using all butter instead. I don't know why, but using just butter and letting it rest before rolling did the trick.

It's great that you have found a recipe and technique that works for you. Keep making pies! 

for her 75th birthday and she loved it. We knew this would happen. We let her pick every course, she didn't have to worry about someone putting undisclosed mushrooms in a dish (she hates them), etc.


We (my brother, sister-in-law, and I) were glad to do it and it certainly saved us a lot of money compared to going out. But there was an unexpected benefit. Mom has had diabetes for nearly 30 years and she often has a hard time using the right amount of insulin for a fancy restaurant meal. She will use too much and get a low blood sugar. Or it will be the right amount, but her digestion slows down and she gets a low blood sugar because the insulin is there and her food isn't ready to be absorbed to meet it. With this dinner there was no problem at all.


She loved the food *and* said that her readings were perfect all weekend. Well, I would like to know exactly what it is that we did right. It wasn't a low carbohydrate meal (we had white potatoes and dessert) but maybe it was lower than you would get in a restaurant because we didn't do a bread basket, and we self-served the side dishes and the dessert portions weren't huge? I'm just trying to figure out how we served a fancy meal that didn't cause her any problems, because it would be nice to try again.


Are there any resources you can recommend that might help me figure out what we did right? We all want to keep her as healthy as we can, and I have to tell you, listening to her talk herself through self-treating a low blood sugar reading is terrifying. She gets very, very incoherent.

Honestly, I think this is more of a question for some kind of health professional. Hopefully there's a doctor or nutritionist your mom regularly sees who can help you with more meal planning. I'm not sure any of us feels comfortable speculating/advising. But, sure, in general, folks often do eat less at home and of course you know exactly what's going into the food.

For a resource, I would definitely start with the American Diabetes Association. They have a ton on food.

They freeze well raw, too. Just prep them as you would for your recipes and put in freezer bags or containers. I have bags of diced/chopped sweet peppers and chiles for recipes, halved and seeded jalapenos, and strips of frozen sweet peppers for fajitas or sausage-n-peppers. They have to be cooked when you use them, however; they get mushy when thawed.

That's what we do with most of our peppers -- toss them in the freezer. We're always going through jalapenos or serranos in curries, etc.

When my hens get lobster scraps, their yolks are brilliant coral color, like roe. The Japanese eat a lot of fish, maybe that's why the yolks there are so bright?

You are indeed a selfless chicken-raiser. My hens don't get lobster scraps in their wildest dreams.

Do you have any suggestions for Brazilian themed appetizers for an Olympics opening ceremony watch party? Everything I have found so far looks to be pretty complicated. Thanks!

Don't have a tested recipe, but I do always enjoy those cheese bread puffs (pao de queijo).

As Jim can attest to my failure, pork tenderloin is a challenge. Looks simple and so simple to screw it up. Thank Mexico for adobo sauce and beer.

      This is from a buddy of mine whose pork tenderloin came out a little dry the other evening. I live by the code that a man's, or woman's, grill is like their car: they are the driver, not me. So, I didn't say anything when he told me the recipe said the pork loin should be grilled for, I believe it was, an hour and a half. 

        Pork loin is very lean. Lean meats generally prefer much shorter treatments. In the case of a pork loin, that would typically be about 20 minutes. (Guess I should have taken the wheel.) 

       The lesson: be aware of the fat content in what you are cooking. It matters. That doesn't mean a lot of fat means a food should take a long time, necessarily (an 80-20 chuck burger still only takes about 5-10 minutes). But just because it is large, like a pork loin can be, doesn't mean it can handle a long time on the grill. Generally, big meats (pork shoulder, ribs, brisket) with a lot of fat prefer low temp over a long period. Less big meats (pork loin) that are pretty lean prefer less time. 

Editor Joe here! Just a quick note to say thanks to my colleagues for holding down the chat while I've been dealing with a family emergency in Texas, and thanks to readers for such questions (and answers), as usual. I'll be back next week!

How about going retro with Chicken Cordon Bleu?

When some of our zucchini would get over-large (and tough), we'd just add them to the compost heap, to recycle as fertilizer for the next year's garden.

This recipe from April Bloomfield / Smitten Kitchen is a perennial favorite in our house.  I also love using just tahini in sesame noodles instead of peanut butter in this recipe or similar ones.  And on the sweet side, this tahini date cardamom smoothie has the same flavors as those cookies Kara mentioned.  Or, on second thought, just send the jar my way and I'll put it to good use :)

That smoothie sounds excellent.

I'm not a baker, so watching this show has helped me learn just how time consuming and difficult baking can be. It's given a great appreciation for the expertise required. It makes me sad, though, that all that time and energy is put into something that gets devoured so quickly.

When you look in the empty plate after the pie or cake have been eaten up, you'll see a lot of love in there, too. 

Not all baking is time-consuming and difficult! These folks are obviously at a high level, on a competition, so not everything's going to be a cake walk. So to speak.

Good one!

It's probably salt (no tears though) and fat. I tried to limit these when I cook at home, but restaurants/hotels/buffets don't necessarily have that issue. Or it could be mustard, some recipes have it as an optional ingredient?

I was perplexed by this in Mr. Shahin's article. Does it have pork in it or just the juices? Any recipes?

       Hash is made of pork and includes its juices. It is simmered for such a long time that it basically melts into something like a gravy. I'm sorry, I don't have a recipe at the ready and I just took a quick spin on the Internet machine and I don't like any that I came across. However, if you buy Robert Moss's book, "The Carolinas," there is a recipe for hash in there, I'm pretty sure, and Moss does meticulous research. 

why preserve cabbage? it's available year round in our region at farmers markets.

I slice a few small zucchini into rounds, stir-fry over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes, then add a tablespoon of oyster sauce, a tablespoon of hoisin sauce, a drizzle of sesame oil, and stir-fry another minute. Tender-crisp texture and savory flavor. Serve over rice. Can add meat, tofu, or shrimp (stir-fry separately, then add with the sauces) to make a complete meal.

Ball B lue Book has a recipe for Zesty Zucchini Relish that my family likes (if you don't mind canning).

Well, you've let us cool on the windowsill just like in the movies, so you know what that means....we're done! Thanks to Jim, Carrie, Cathy and Kate, and to you, dear readers, for adding your two cents' worth. 


Today's chat winners: The tender scrambled eggs chatter who may have solved the scrambled eggs mystery gets a copy of  "Naturally Sweet: Bake All Your Favorites With 30 to 50 Percent Less Sugar" (source of the coconut-lime cream pie recipe today). The salsa pH chatter gets a copy of "Preserving Italy" by our pal Domenica Marchetti.


Send your mailing info to and she'll get those books right out to you. Till next week, happy cooking, baking and eating!

In This Chat
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Cathy Barrow
Cathy Barrow's first cookbook is "Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving" (W.W. Norton). She blogs at
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Tamar Haspel
Tamar Haspel, who farms oysters on Cape Cod and writes about food and science, is author of the monthly Unearthed column, winner of a James Beard Award.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Kate McDermott
Kate McDermott is a pie maker, teacher and author of the forthcoming "Art of the Pie: A Practical Guide to Crusts, Fillings, and Life" (W.W. Norton/The Countryman Press). Her website is
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