Free Range on Food: Triploid oysters, juicing and more

Aug 01, 2012

Sterile oysters mean you can eat the bivalves more months out of the year. Also, we'll talk about the juicing trend.
Past Free Range on Food chats

V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N. It's almost upon me, and I am so, so ready to go! But before I do, dear readers, I'll host this darn chat -- because nothing's more fun on a Wednesday (before I go on holiday, did I mention that?) than to entertain your queries about foodstuffs and cooking and whatever parties/buffets/brunches you're catering. Perhaps your interest was piqued by Tim Carman, who shed light on the virtually sexless oysters we can eat in months without an "R" in them; or by the fine crop of oyster recipes curated by Jane Touzalin; or by newbie juicer Bob Carden's approach to drinking fruits and vegetables; or Dave McIntyre's recap of how Maryland wines faired in competition; or you just want to know how to choose a green papaya. Well,  scientist and creator of the triploid oyster Stan Allen's here, as are Tim, Jane, Food/Travel aide Becky Krystal and  Jim "Smoke Signals" Shahin, who gave us the first of a two-part interview with Steve Raichlen this week.


Two prizes to give away: "The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook," source of today's Dinner in Minutes, and "Eat Your Vegetables," a very handsome new cookbook by British chef Arthur Potts Dawson. We'll announce winners at the end of the hour.  Enough yadda-yadda, eh? We're on.


This isn't my question but it's a comment on your oyster article from someone else, so I'm asking the Rangers. "I think it would be helpful to explain more about the "half-shell market" versus the "oyster shucking market." If I see a plate of oysters on the half-shell in a restaurant, are they sold by the vendor that way? And therefore no one in the kitchen had to shuck them? Why couldn't triploid oysters also be shucked in front of the customer? This part of the article is unclear."

The half-shell market is an industry term. It just means that some oyster producers or wholesalers sell their product in the shell to restaurants, which in turn have to have people on staff who shuck them for customers.


The shucked oyster industry is responsible for those tubs of pre-shucked oysters that you can use in various recipes, from Thanksgiving dressings to stews to fried oysters.


I was so excited to see the description of Khepra's on's food page, which says it's in my neighborhood, Petworth. Fourth Street NW is not Petworth. Now I am sad. :(

Actually, the author didn't say it's in Petworth. The owner is a Petworth resident.

"the health benefits of juicing are clear" - Is there some purported benefit over eating fruit and vegetables? or is the asserted benefit simply that people who juice consume more fruit and vegetables than people who don't? Because there doesn't appear from the article to be any showing that juicing is a better way to eat fruit and vegetables than any other way.

Well, in the context of the author's life, in which he wasn't eating the daily recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, now he's doing that and more.  And I think he's saying that for him, and perhaps others like him, it's not an easy to way to take in the nutrients he wasn't getting.  Among the benefits:  juicing is an efficient way to take absorb nutrients and enzymes of raw fruit & veg; can enhance the way your body fights disease.

I've been told by my primary care physician to eat more prunes. What's the difference between plums and prunes. Are they the same nutritionally and biologically?

Prune = dried (dehydrated) plum. Your geeky food factoids for the day:  The Latin word for plum is prunum; the French call a fresh plum a prune. Huzzah! 


U.S. marketing geniuses decided that "dried plum" sounded more appealing. So when you're snacking on those dried plums, you'll be treating yourself to lots of potassium and vitamin A and (soluble and unsoluble) fiber.

We just featured an unusual zucchini salad recipe that had prunes. I quite liked it.

I just read on one of those new-uses-for-familiar-things sites that one should "rub the cut edge of cheese with some butter to keep it from getting moldy." Do you know about this? Seems to me the cheese could get rancid where the butter is. (The same site says to add vodka to cut flowers.)

I hadn't heard of this until now. I did find a few references online, but none that I'd put total confidence in. Cook's Illustrated recommends wrapping the cheese in wax paper and then aluminum foil. That's what I do. Works very well. I also label it with the type of the cheese and the date I opened it. Makes discerning random chunks (and there are quite a few!) in my cheese drawer way easier.

"Sterile oysters mean you can eat the bivalves more months out of the year." Please explain. Triploid oysters are "sterile" in the sense that they can't reproduce, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are less subject to contamination and thus a food safety threat.

I'm sure the man who invented the triploid, Stan Allen, can explain it better than I can, but I'll tell you what I know:


Triploids, because they don't reproduce, can spend their energy fighting diseases and parasites that attack oysters when they are vulnerable (i.e., when they're spawning). It's not a fail-safe situation, meaning that triploids are not immune to disease, but they can fight it better than diploids.

And you are right, they are prone to the same environmental issues, such as Vibrio and harmful algal blooms, that anything living in the water would be.  Sterility plays no role here.

Where can I find tripoid oysters in No. Va? I see that both Blackwater and Rappahannock River oysters have mail order options, but are there retail purchase options?

Dan Grosse, a partner with Toby Island Bay Oyster Co. in Chincoteague, says that just about any oysters you find in shell at this time of year will be triploids, especially if they're from the Chesapeake area. Whole Foods in Alexandria, for example, has oysters available from locals waters, and they are no doubt all triploids.


The exception, Grosse says, is Blue Point oysters, which are likely diploids.

Thanks for passing along a (vetted) recipe. I'll make it as soon as I get my hands on some liquid rennet! Seems like a delicious thing to go with all the stone fruits we've been getting lately. Question for this week: I've tried making sour cream recently, the first time (with leftover half and half from ice cream) worked really well, the second time (prepared the same way, but using a mix of heavy cream and whole milk) didn't. At all. It separated and smelled rotten, not sour. Any ideas why? Basic recipe is a couple spoonfuls of cultured buttermilk to the fresh stuff in a half pint jar.

I haven't made a ton of sour cream, but perhaps your prob had to with the amount of butterfat (heavy cream has more than half-and-half)? Chatters?  

Thanks for the article on triploid oysters. Do they perform the same filtering service - i.e. contribute to cleaning up the bay - as their breeding cousins do?

Yes, they do filter, and that is another benefit to the area as more watermen adopt triploid oyster aquaculture. The more triploids, the cleaner the bay.

Hi - I just got back from a trip to Greece and Turkey. I bought some wonderful sumac in Turkey..I fell in love with it sprinkled on red onions. What are some great ways to use this wonderful spice? Thanks!

Lovelovelove sumac. I've brought it back from Turkey and Israel, where it was sold in great bags in the spice markets. It's rich and deep and earthy and multifaceted; you can find it here but when I've run out of my imported stock and had to buy it in spice bottles, it's not quite been the same. Think of it and use it like paprika that has character and purpose. Here are five recipes we've got that call for it; it was quite successful on the Mediterranean-style grilled turkey that we featured in our last Thanksgiving issue. And in the cumin-scented quinoa with beef and beets, pictured here.  Chatters, how do you use it?

And to Bonnie's recommendations, I will add one more: fatoush. Sumac, along with fresh mint, is a required ingredient in the lemony Lebanese salad. Just sprinkle it on. 

Do you know if these peppers are supposed to be cracked or ground before being added to a recipe? I made a dish tonight that didn't specify so I used them whole and the result was noisy crunch more than flavor. Or maybe the problem was that I used something called "wild peppers" that someone at the market said is another name for Sichuan peppercorns. They look the same to me in the images I've found, but the images are kinda small. Here's link to the recipe I used.

It all depends on the recipe, and unfortunately the author of the recipe you used neglected to mention whether to grind or use whole Sichuna peppercorns.


How did the final dish taste? Did you feel the numbling sensation of the peppercorns? Or taste the pine needle flavor?

Chaka Khan recently lost a lot of weight juicing for 6 months. How do you structure a nutrition plan with juicing at the core? What are some recipes for snacks that satisfy to go along with a juicing centered diet? Do you have a recommendation for juicers?

I think you might have to consult your doctor or a registered dietitian or nutritionist (and you can do so at some grocery stores, for free or very little cost) for a plan, but I can tell you that the author of our juicing story today likes his Breville Elite.  If you went the blender route, you'd pay more for a Vita-Mix or other high-powered blender.  Seems like it might be more of a multi-tasker and you could always strain out the pulp....

So, years ago, and I'm talking pushing a decade here, I bought some wheat starch, potato flour and rice flour in preparation for making dough for dumplings and potstickers. All are still in their flimsy plastic bags, unopened. I know it's beyond time to throw them out, and that the act of finally admitting to the world that these aren't getting used would paradoxically make me more likely to reacquire supplies and actually make the dish after all. Yet every time I encounter them when I rustle through my cabinets I guiltily leave them in place. Does anyone else have something like this -- a ghost of project/s not done, haunting your kitchen? What did you do about it?

Where to start? Maybe the jar of barley malt syrup I bought when I was sure I was going to start making bagels. Still in my fridge. I figure it will last ages. Or the whole wheat pastry flour that... I can't even remember what that was for. It has been taking up too much room in my freezer.

So Bonnie, would you share with us where you are going? And whether it will involve cooking/eating delicious things?

This is a fairly short trip, to a family wedding in Montreal. I'll be introducing my fellas to Joe Beef and Schwartz's of course. Also going to what I've been told is the best Lebanese place in the city -- Daou. Ever been there?

What is that picture you ran with the introduction? It looks quite tasty.

That would be this week's recipe for Angels on Horseback, from Jack Black of Pearl Dive Oyster Palace. Bacon-wrapped grilled oysters. Nom.

Are you supposed to chew them or swallow them whole? FYI - salted, fermented oysters make an excellent seasoning in kimchi.

It's a personal preference. I don't think there is a right or wrong answer here.  Personally, after I taste the oyster liquor -- the briny liquid inside the shell, which is most important part of the oyster, to my mind -- I give the bivalve a few chews to sample its flavor and texture.


Others prefer to let it slid on down, though.

I took a 2 lb frozen brisket from my freezer and put it in my fridge to defrost on Monday night. I thought I would cook it today, but it looks like I'm not going to get to it until Friday. It will stay in the fridge the whole time (of course). I plan to cook it for 8 hours in a crock pot. Safe to eat?

Yep. A brisket that has only been in the fridge is good for up to 5 days -- assuming it's well wrapped/contained -- and since yours was frozen to start with, it should be fine. Before you cook it, does the color look okay? Does the meat have any odd aroma? Those might be signs of "not okay."  Slow-cookerwise, you'd want the temperature of the meat to get to 160 degrees.

I'd like to start baking my own bread, working up (I hope) to delicious, hardy, seeded loaves. What's the best way to start? I am a good baker generally but haven't worked much with yeast, so that's what I find to be my psychological hurdle. How would you suggest I begin? Thanks.

You might want to start with a slow-rise or no-knead kind of recipe. We're pretty keen on the one Nancy Baggett shared with our readers in 2007. Her instructions are very clear, and you get to understand/see how yeast does its thing. Also, check out books/works/blog of Peter Reinhart (such as "Artisan Breads Every Day"), because he's a great teacher, and his recipes work.

Agree with Bonnie on the slow-rise/no-knead suggestion. I'm a fan of Zoë François and Mark Luinenburg, the team behind the "Bread in Five Minutes a Day" series. They have a book featuring whole grains that came out in 2009.

Sumac is also amazing on grilled meats. Try it on grilled skirt steak or even grilled chicken. Gives it a fantastic lemon flavor and a pretty red color. I sometimes add it to soups and stews to impart a bit of a lemon flavor-always keeps my guests guessing as to the tasty ingredient.

OK, OK, I saved all my pennies and bought a vitamix and now it appears I need a juicer? Can't I make the healthy (mixing greens and fruits) in the vitamix to drink every day before work and it works as well as a juicer?

You're good. Strain the juice you pulverize, if need be.

Read the blog on Steven Raichlen - a French Lit degree? A novelist? Who knew? Pretty different, it seems, for a barbeque guy. I'm looking forweard to the second part of the interview!!!!

Yeah, Steven is a pretty interesting guy. Really enjoyed our conversations. What got me was him saying he was a childhood finicky eater. Who'd a thunk? Shameless plug: The second of the two-parter will be on the Smoke Signals blog next Tuesday morning. It will be on trends and tips. Hope you like that one, too.

Here's the link to the first part of Jim's interview with Raichlen.

I thought that the reason we didn't eat oysters in non-R months was because we would get sick, not because of breeding and texture. Is it safe to go out and harvest them ourselves?

The two main reasons people typically ate oysters during "R" months was because of lack of refrigeration and the spawning season. Refrigeration (as well as very strict regulations on the safe temperature for handling and storing oysters) has long since solved that issue.


The triploid now begins to solve the taste and texture issue associated with oysters harvested during spanwing season.


With that said, some oyster producers and buyers still refuse to sell or buy bivalves during the summer months. They feel the water is just too warm (and vulnerable to problems such as Vibrio) and handling conditions too onerous to keep the oysters at the right temperature.

My absolute favorite bread recipe is Alton Brown's "Very Basic Bread." It's been a "gateway recipe" for baking other kinds of bread, since it raised my confidence in regard to using yeast. And you don't HAVE to use the dough hook on the KitchenAid--hand kneading works just fine, but the bread won't have the same texture as with the machine.

Thanks for the recommendation; our beginning bread baker's got more to work with now.

In a fit of overzealousness, i bought a rather large bunch of unripened grapes at a local Middle Eastern grocery store. I usually use them for stews in place of lemon juice. Other than this use, or to press them to make juice, any other thoughts on how to use these grapes? Many many thanks!

Are triploids available for the consumer to purchase in the DMV area?

Most oysters sold in summer are likely triploids, save perhaps for Blue Points.

I had asked whether it is safe to get our own oysters in summer but I realized after posting that you had no idea where I am. Where I live, I can simply go out for a wade or take my kayak or boat out and gather them any time I like. I am hundreds of miles north and east of the Chesapeake Bay.

Wild oysters are fine to eat anytime you want, regardless of their condition, but some waters are posted as closed to harvesting, meaning they are unsafe to eat because of local pollution (either temporary or chronic).  Check with your local health department.

Every now and then, some nutritionist or other says to eat oranges instead of drinking orange juice. Should we ignore that advice?

Hmm. I feel a bit out of my depth here, but I'll answer it.  Every now and then, eat an orange.

I really want to do a green papaya salad but Im not sure which papaya will be ideal, I mean how green it needs to be, what variety is the best. Can you give me some tips on this? A green papaya recipe for a beginner will also be appreciated!

The green papaya you want for this recipe will be at Asian markets. When ripe, it's kind of bright green on the outside (you need to peel it) and pale green to beigy-white on the inside -- almost like a cucumber, with a large swath of seeds you can scrape out. The fruit sort of looks like a cuke on steroid. But you could even use an unripe mango here. If you want to skip the prep, I bet you could find already-julienned papaya at the market (like H Mart).


This recipe's from our old Chef on Call series penned by David Hagedorn, created by Spike Mendelsohn who slings burgers, shakes and pizzas but knows a thing or two about developing Asian flavors.

I am using so much garlic these days, people may be wondering if I'm trying to ward off vampires! Anyway, while I don't mind the smash-and-peel approach, I wonder if you'd comment on the quality of pre-peeled garlic, meaning the whole cloves that come in jars of plastic "clam shells." Is it weaker (milder) than just-peeled garlic? Even if you use the whole container right away? And how about the minced garlic in oil -- is it a waste of money, or a time-saver? I absolutely do NOT want milder garlic, so thanks for letting me know one way or the other!

I've resorted to those peeled things in clamshells to save time, but IMHO, if I can already smell the garlic -- and I can, before I even zip open the package -- then I figure I'm losing some garlic flavor, you know? For me, the peeled garlic from Christopher Ranch has worked best. The company's site  isn't showing this option, but I have bought it packaged in groups of 2 or 4 and then again in a bigger resealable bag. It was expensive, though, and uses lots of excess plastic.  I don't use the stuff in oil.


FYI, there's the smash-and-peel, but when I have lots of garlic to peel I usually just soak a few heads or busted up cloves in warm water for 10 or 20 minutes. Peels slip off pretty easily.

    I rarely use pre-peeled garlic, but when I do (I feel like that guy in the beer commercial), I go to Mexican Fruits in the DC Farmers Market on Florida Avenue. They hand-peel them fresh every morning. They're beautiful (no bruises), not preserved in anything (just put into a container, and, if I am using that day, then it would be the same as if I peeled them myself. Except, you know, that I didn't. 

Is it possible to grill avocados or are they too "soft"?

     Avocados grill beautifully. You simply slice them into thickish wedges (about, oh, 1 half-inch) and place them over a medium-hot fire for about 2 minutes per side. 

    As it happens, I just had a grilled avocado guacamole for lunch at the Kingsford Charcoal R&D lab, which I toured yesterday. Dee-lish! (Cool lab, too. But you coudn't torture the scientists there to get them to talk about their testing processes. You'd think they were working on a cure for cancer rather than making charcoal.)

I love oysters! I love articles on oysters! I love articles indicating that there will be more oysters available and that they will be cheaper! OYSTERS! Sorry. . .I got a little carried away. . .but I do love me some bivalves. . .diploid, triploids, tetrapoid. . .it's all yummy to me! Can you do an article on cocktail sauce next?

We can, but I really prefer my oysters naked! I love to be able to taste the particular waters where the oyster was raised -- the salinity of the water, the particular food the oyster may have been eating. It's terroir, but in oyster form.

Are you referring to the ketchup/chili sauce/horseradish stuff, or the genre, like a mignonette?

We love the little smoked oysters in the can - anyone know how to do that easily or is it sort of a secret method?

Smoked oysters (in a can) often are a product of Korea.  I have no idea how they do  it but imagine you could find a facsimile method on the web somewhere . . .

      I have no clue, either, about how they smoked those little unrecognizable guys in a can either. Although I must admit, they are a guilty pleasure: I smash them with minced garlic and Worcestershire sauce and wrap them in cream cheese for one of those great non-ironic retro apps. 

     As for smoking oysters on your grill, that's really easy. Clean oyster. Put over a hot fire. When the shell opens, it's done. You can also open the oyster before setting on the grill and set on the cold side of an indirect fire for about five minutes to give it a whiff of smoke.

Unless you intend to pick them out one by one while you eat, it is best to grind them before putting in the dish. I find that roasting them whole in the pan and then grind them up into powder form works well because it also brings out the most flavor. Motar/pestle works for this.

Yes, I would tend to agree with you. But some recipes actually call for whole peppercorns.

What's your favorite, off the beaten path oyster shacks? I'm looking for a place to buy them by the bucket. :)

Maybe you can't buy them by the bucket there, but my favorite "oyster shack" is "Merroir" in Topping VA, which also features amazing beers on tap -- right next to Locklies Creek off the Rappahanock River

Nevin Martell wrote about Merroir for us on the All We Can Eat blog. He would second Stan's recommendation.

No, no numbing, no pine needle flavor in those I did eat. But they cracked so loudly in my mouth that after the first few bites, I started pushing them to the side of the plate. So if there's a cumulative effect, I missed that.

My sense is that you should have ground them first.

no need to strain the lovely juice you make in your vitamix! i pulverize all sorts of things in my vitamix, and if it's too "pulpy" for you, just add a little extra water and give it a whirl again. or, just add a couple ice cubes and pulse for a few minutes. great way to drink your veggies and fruits, without losing all the fiber you would if you used a juicer!!!!


One of my friends mentioned that they make homemade popcorn with olive oil, not vegetable oil. I didn't think of it at the time, but I was always under the impression that you shouldn't use olive oil for something like that because of the low burning point. Have any of you ever used olive oil to make homemade popcorn? If so, should I lower the temp?

I've only ever used vegetable oil. But I'm with you. I'd be worried about the smoke point of olive oil. For popping purposes, I'm not sure there's a significant enough difference in taste or nutrition to merit using olive oil and desperately trying not to burn it.

Might you inquire whether there was manipulation of the photos that accompanied an article elsewhere in The Post about food on the campaign trail?  That stuff looks so disgusting, so unnatural, that it's almost enough to turn me against doughnuts! And it certainly makes me appreciate even more the foods discussed here!!

Yup, the credits say they were "digitally enhanced." Whatever that means!

Haven't heard back from the photo desk, but Style editor Frances Stead Sellers tells me the reporters snapshots were enhanced for quality purposes. Maybe doughnuts with pink frosting and sprinkles dont look much better than that, say, under fluorescent "egad-I-can't-buy-this-bathing-suit" lighting?

My grandma juiced before it was cool. Or maybe it was on a previous wave of cool. Anyway, she's been juicing forever and it seems to have been great for her health. I love the concept, and have my own Juiceman Jr.--but as an apartment dweller who doesn't have a compost bin, I have a really hard time wasting all that pulp. I've used carrot pulp in some stuff, but it's a big hurdle for me--the juice is tasty, but what to do with the waste? I usually end up just eating the fruit/vegetable instead.

Good q, and go Grandma! I see that some folks stir the pulp into quickbread or muffin batter (for extra fiber). Seems to me that you could use fruit pulps to infuse ice cream or sorbet bases, or even simple syrups (which I am totally into these days for macerating fresh fruit salads). Failing that, you could find a nice community garden and work out an exchange -- maybe compost for some nice produce?

I had a great Kale salad while visiting CA. Got it at the grocery store deli. Read somewhere that you have to massage the kale (w/ oil?). Do you think that would be done to the whole leaf or after it's been chopped? Any recipes or ideas would be appreciated. Good alternative to your typical salad greens.

It's easier/more effective to massage the stemmed leaves. Ran a Dinner in Minutes recipe for a kale and cucumber salad with an avocado-tahini dressing in May, and that was the first time I'd massaged kale. It manages to retain a little crunch but definitely gets softer. Nice for salads. In fact, I've become a fan of kale Caesar salads, and massaging the greens before you add the dressing makes a difference. You can use salt instead of oil, too. Give it a try!

I use it on deviled eggs to give it a familiar-but-slightly-different taste. It is a good way to make a familiar dish interesting without totally alienating purists.

Two thumbs up.

The half-and-half was homogenized. The cream + milk mixture was not. Just mixing it together doesn't homogenize it.

I was referring to the amount of fat in the cream vs. the amount you'd have in half-and-half.

Any suggestions for a side dish for a cookout? I plan to make it Thursday for a Friday cookout. I have been thinking of gazpacho or something different than ordinary mac or pot salad. Maybe a couscous or something with lentils.

Given the temperatures outside, I'd go with something cool and refreshing, like a dish with watermelon.


Try something like this:


* Arugula, Watermelon, Feta and Shrimp Salad


* Cafe Panache's Grilled Watermelon Salad


* Tomato Watermelon Salad

A couple of weeks ago as I remember, there was mention of a beef "clod" in an article by Jim Shahin - can't remember where the beef "clod" comes from and how tender it might be. Thanks for the info.

     Beef "clod" is shoulder. You don't see it too often on menus, because it tends to be tough. It is something of a signature at the fabled Kreuz Barbecue Market in Lockhart, Texas. And it is served as well at the Kreuz-inspired Hill Country Barbecue Market in Penn Quarter. 

      Me, never been a fan. I've never found it as tender or flavorful as smoked brisket. But some folks just love it. Anyway, that's clod.

Those poor oysters. What a beautiful sacrifice for them to make for our slurping safely. Bless 'em.

You can certainly bless them, but they will still be without a sex life -- until you put them out of their misery.

my kids hate vegetables. there, i said it. i'm ashamed, but i have done everything short of force feeding them to get them to eat veggies! it's a shame, because lo and behold...i am a vegetarian!!!!! help me...please! do you think going the juice/smoothie route might work? they do like fruit, so maybe blending with vegetables and serving in non-clear glasses (so they can't see the green!) might help introduce them to healthful veggies? i don't like the idea of "sneaking" in foods, but i am at my wits' end, and feeling like a very bad mommy :(

I think we learned from testing juice recipes that it's hard to sneak greens into a smoothie -- it just turns some shade of green. But there are other ways to go. You might think about pureeing/blending them into pasta or mac and cheese sauces.  Do they like salads at all? Do you get them involved in kitchen prep at all?

I made your watermelon salad from last week but used safflower oil instead of olive oil for the dressing because it's all I had. How different do oils taste? I wouldn't care except my mom was visiting and I wanted to appeal to her more refined taste buds. Thanks for the recipe and any wisdom re: oils. The salad did taste wonderful!

Glad you liked the salad. No shame in using that safflower oil in a pinch. It's more of a neutral flavor. Olive oil has a more distinctive taste, so if you swapped in olive oil in a recipe that calls for safflower, that might be more problematic.

I love Marchetti's recipe and use it frequently. My question: I have just prepared the fish and marinade for dinner tomorrow night but our house guests will be downtown Thursday night so shall I serve it tonight with only 8 hours of marinating or can I keep it safely until Friday night? I spent a small fortune on the fish and don't want to waste it. Please--your opinion. A cook in chevy Chase

Boy, we love that recipe too. In fact, it'll be included in The Washington Post Cookbook (due 2013). The headnote says you can marinate for 24 to 48 hours, so I think you'd be okay to keep it till Friday.

my boyfriend was horrified to discover that my ketchup expired in 2009 and my mustard in 2011. I was unaware that either of these even HAD an expiration date and have been using both (not frequently, obviously) without any ill effect, mostly in cooking. Is there any safety concern here or is it just a matter of quality degradation? I didn't notice the latter either. Thanks!

Interesting.  Just about any processed food in a jar or can has a finite shelf life.  Ketchup and mustardwise, we're talking best quality. Check the ingredient labels of each; does sugar or salt rank among the first 3 listed?  Those will help prolong the shelf life of a product.  Were your condiments opened/unopened/refrigerated?

Yes, you're getting nutrients. But juicing takes out most of the fiber. If that's the only way to get you to eat fruits and vegetables it's OK, but eating them in their full form has added benefits.

Well, if you're "juicing" in VitaMix, you'll get the fiber too.

Corn is my new cooking muse, it seems. So good from the farmers market. All the talk last week of corn got me thinking that it would be delicious to somehow combine macaroni & cheese and corn pudding (a good BBQ side, I would think). I'm not entirely sure the best way to go about it. Corn pudding often has egg as a binder, but if I made a cheese sauce, maybe that's not necessary? I could probably just make macaroni and cheese the standard way (i.e. mornay sauce with pasta) and add corn before it goes in the oven. What do you think? I'd appreciate your advice. Thanks.

Interesting question. Here's what I would do: I'd make Classic Macaroni and Cheese, following the recipe, with changes. First, I would buzz a couple cups of corn together with a couple cups of milk in the food processor, and I would use that milk to heat for the bechamel sauce (and I'd toss in the cobs, too, for extra flavor). Not sure if I'd strain out the corn pieces later; would depend on how big they were and whether I thought they'd be obtrusive. I'd also use a fairly mild cheddar that wouldn't obliterate the corn flavor. And yes, I'd add a pound of corn kernels before baking. Hey, and maybe some chopped, sauteed red pepper and onion. All of this is completely speculative, so I'm not even sure if the processing/milk step would have any effect, but that's the fun part of experimenting in the kitchen. You learn something every time. Let us know what you decide to do, and how well it worked.

The biggest difference is a PLUM tastes better. If I smell prunes, I still remember grandma "forcing" me to drink prune juice when I was a kid.

Aha! Marketing geniuses were onto something.

I was referring to my favorite form of  Oyster garnish...the ketchup with LOTS of horseradish. And you can still taste the fresh, just from the sea, saltwater taste through the cocktail sauce. When that's not available I use Tabasco. I hate the vinegar garnishes but I know some people enjoy them. But I also eat them naked. . .I mean. . .ANY oyster is better than no oyster at all. . .right? OYSTERS!!!!

Of course, everyone has a right to eat oysters as they wish.


Personally, when giving an oyster a final resting place in my stomach, I don't want to send them off drowning in horseradish! :)

If you were using refined (i.e. light) olive oil, it would be okay. The chatter didn't mention whether they wanting to use extra-virgin, which I wouldn't recommend. But refined olive oil has a smoke point just below soybean oil. You could also probably blend olive oil with another oil that has a high smoke point, like grapeseed or soybrean.

Thanks for the insight. I typically just keep extra-virgin around the house, so vegetable oil it is for me.

Hi, Rangers! I'm so glad you ran this article! I've been growing non-reproductive oysters at my dock for years now and have been telling my disbelieving friends for years that it's safe to eat oysters in the summer. Now I have a WaPo article to back me up! Thank you for helping to spread the word, and thank you for running those recipes. Meanwhile, I'd like to share my favorite way to prepare them: Roasted on the half-shell with a crumb topping of fresh bread crumbs, garlic, olive oil and parsley. Roast in a medium hot oven 10-12 minutes - Delicious!

Thank you! And thanks for chiming in with your recipe.

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter, "You've had a pleasant run! Shall we be trotting home again?' But answer came there none-- And this was scarcely odd, because They'd eaten every one.

Which of course is the plight of natural fisheries.  Lewis Carroll would be brillig' to know about the sustainability of oyster farming

Inspired by last week's article and discussion, this apartment-dweller tried grilling peaches on a George Foreman ("fat-reducing") indoor grill. The fruit was better un-grilled. Could that be because a Foreman doesn't have smoke, flame or charcoal? Or could I have over-grilled it because I was waiting for grill marks? Or is it most likely just a matter of taste? I'm wondering if I should try again and do something differently, such as oiling the fruit first - or something. You are peachy for answering!

      I never tried grilling fruit on a George Foreman, so I can't say for sure. But if I had to guess, I'd choose all of the above, but mostly "A" - no smoke, flame, or charcoal. 

     The fiery elements is what alters the character of the fruit. Without them, you just have cooked fruit. 

     That said, who knows, once you do grill fruit over fire, you may still prefer the fruit in its natural state. 

     As for trying again, I don't know what happened the first time. Maybe the peaches stuck because they weren't oiled. So, what can it hurt, oil 'em, try one more time. You won't achieve  the result that an actual grill produces. But maybe it'll go better.

I just wanted to throw this out there for anyone else who is always looking for a new salad idea, which I know I am. Last night I had to put together what I already had to accompany some salmon fillets. I roasted some Brussels sprouts and mushrooms with garlic, salt, and pepper, diced an avocado and put all the veggies on some lettuce. I also topped it with a seed/nut/date mix I got from Whole Foods. Made a simple dressing of olive oil, white wine vinegar, dijon and spices. It was so good my boyfriend forgot to even eat his salmon until after the salad was gone!

We endorse your dinner triumph.  Thanks for sharing with Free Rangers today!

Hi - I'm wondering if you guys have a recommendation for a coffee grinder that evenly grinds the beans. I currently have the cuisinart coffee bar coffee grinder (with the button on top that you push down) and it definitely does not grind the beans evenly; I'll have whole beans mixed in with finely ground beans. I think the blades may be starting to get dull so I'm in the market for a new one (unless you or others also have recommendations for sharpening the blades on the grinder..). Thanks!

It sounds like you're using a blade grinder, a device in which no real grinding is involved: Two blades whir around hacking at the beans. Those don't work nearly as well as burr grinders, which grind the beans between revolving surfaces and which create coffee particles of a uniform size, from coarse to very fine. Don't bother sharpening your blades; repurpose your coffee mill as a spice/herb chopper and go buy a more effective coffee grinder. You'll be happy.

I would like to buy some salmon burgers to keep in the freezer for a quick meal. However what kind of sauce can I put on them to spice them up?

You could mix mayo with some lime juice and zest, or some chipotle en adobo, or you could make this green curry aioli, or you could puree some roasted red peppers  with a water, even.

I've seen different responses to this on the internet, but is it cool to cook tomatoes in a cast iron pan? I've heard some say that it does bad things for the pan, leaves bad taste in the tomatoes, and some say they've never had problems with this. Any guidelines on this?

Here's what Lodge, the ultimate authority in cast iron, has to say:

Foods which are very acidic (i.e. beans, tomatoes, citrus juices, etc.) should not be cooked in a cast iron utensil until the cookware is highly seasoned.  The high acidity of these foods will strip the seasoning and  result in discoloration and metallic tasting food.  Wait until cast iron is better seasoned to cook these types of foods.

I prefer to think that I had a discriminating palate from the beginning, later reflected in my passion for great food ... also, I remember reading once that kids have tons more tastebuds than grownups which makes them more sensitive to certain flavors.

Sorry for the confusion. A teaser that says "Good to Go: Khepra's Raw Food Juice Bar Since December 2011, the 40-year-old Petworth resident has been offering a small, ever-changing vegan menu of juices and raw foods." kind of makes it sound like it's in Petworth, no?

We'll fix that teaser language. Didn't you initially refer to the story?

What a waste of an oyster! You won't TASTE it if you swallow it right down!

You taste the liquor, but not the oyster itself.

When tomatoes started coming this year, the first thing I made, well after a BLT, was the spicy tomato beef stir fry in you slideshow of top tomato highlights. Oh so good it's going into our dinner rotation. Also, the tapioca pudding with blueberry sauce was a hit too.

You're welcome! Sometimes I think our Recipe Finder's a hidden gem.  Needs some promotion love. There's good stuff in it.

A chef just did that on Next Food Network Star--I'm sure you can find the recipe on their website.

Are you able to grow any veggies? Kids take a real interest in things they have nurtured themselves, so that sometimes works. Also note that taste changes as they get older...make them keep trying things, and over time they may find they like something the loathed before. Really, This is a common problem.

both were in the fridge and had been opened for a while. I expect to turn into radioactive man (woman) any second now.

What's wrong with a little healthy glow? :)

that Slate's article about making recipes from 4 different ice cream recipe books is fantastic?

I read that article the other day. Fun piece. Really made me want to go home and make more ice cream from -- what else -- the Jeni's book.

They're easy to roast. Put a metal tray (dad used the old top of a washing machine cuz we ate lots of oysters) on a grill and spread the oysters on the tray. They are ready when the shell opens up. Use a think hot pad to open the hot shell.

Actually, not really the same.  The little ones in the can are smoked to an unctuous perfection before canning.  Also, they shrink significantly during the process, further concentrating the flavor.

Where is the best place to enjoy oysters inside the beltway? Best oysters? Best setting? Anywhere that's actually on the water?

I can't think of any place near a body of water. But when I want oysters, I'll go to Hank's Oyster Bar or Pearl Dive Oyster Palace or Old Ebbitt Grill.

I'm going to New Orleans this weekend and always have an issue ordering drinks at the great dive bars around the French Quarter. I don't like beer and I really can't order a glass of wine there so what could I order? I like fruity drinks (rum or vodka based) but am getting sick of ordering screwdrivers. I know a hurricane is a must but I'm looking to branch out.

I don't think you can go to New Orelans and not order a Sazerac. It's the city's official drink.

I was in New Orleans recently and had a cocktail at the wonderful Bar Tonique, near the Quarter. I had the sazerac, which was killer. But the place also does a respectable version of another Nawlins classic, the Vieux Carre, a rye-and-cognac-based cocktail.

I feel the need to defend the lowly prune. Sure, plums are great but prunes' soft texture and muted flavor make them lovely too. Pitted prunes, simmered in water a bit if needed, then served with a touch of brandy and some vanilla yogurt are both healthy and yummy. Substitute or omit liquor, use mascarpone or frozen yogurt if you prefer. I'm not a granny but I'm pro-prune!

I've done it on occasion with no problem. In fact, I read in a cookbook at some point (might have been Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Italian Cooking) that people's perception that Olive Oil has too low of a smoke point is way overblown, and that the smoke point of even EVOO is still higher than the temperature you need for most types of cooking. I use it for most everything except the kind of pan frying where you need a really high temp. It's fine for sauteeing, and popcorn pops so fast it's ready before the oil really has a chance to smoke.

Interesting. Maybe I will experiment.

My new favorite vegetable is baby bok choy! I love it! But the only thing I've been doing thus far is just sauteeing in a pan with a bit of olive oil and then throwing some salt on them. How else can I prepare bok choy? What else can I do with it? (Simple suggestions, please - I am a dunce in the kitchen!)

Don't miss next week's Food section, where our no-cook-meal feature will include a noodle dish with bok choy. Meanwhile, here are some other choices:

Asian-Style Braised Chicken thighs With Carrots and Bok Choy

Baby Bok Choy With Carrots and Spring Onions

Bok Choy and Oyster Mushroom Stir-Fry

Lemon-Ginger Baby Bok Choy

Orange-Chili Salmon With Baby Bok Choy




Garden is prolific, but now I have pounds of haricot verts! Pickled some. Meh. Any other ideas for green beans?

A George Forman "Grill" is not a grill - it's a nonstick electric griddle pan.

Not that I have any desire to become one, just a desire to understand how it happens. Were you food people first, or journalists first?

I came to food journalism after writing first about small city governments and, of all things, music. I had a lengthy career as a music writer in Houston. Interestingly enough, a number of food writers first worked in music, like Ed Levine from Serious Eats and Jonathan Gold from the LA Times.

I came to it as a journalist who'd done more desk work and editing. But certainly was always interested in food. Honestly, I don't know what took me so long.

Have a great vacation!!!!

Aw, thanks!

Jane, thanks for the ideas. Heating the milk with corn and the cobs is a great idea, thanks for suggesting that. I made a corn soup recently and simmered the cobs with the broth, which I think helped. I like the idea of red pepper and onion too. For the cheese, I think I'm going go use a fontina/cheddar blend. I will follow up next week.

Have fun with it! I'll be interested to see how much corny flavor comes through.

One of the finalists of the most recent Food Network Star made this for his pilot...Yvan Lemoine. Sweet Corn Mac and Cheese.. Ingredients Two 8-ounce cans creamed corn 1 cup milk 1/4 teaspoon onion powder, optional 1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch Pinch ground nutmeg Salt and ground black pepper 3 dashes hot sauce, optional, plus more for serving 2 cups elbow macaroni 8 ounces grated mild yellow Cheddar 12 ounces grated mozzarella 1 egg, lightly beaten 1 cup croutons 1 tablespoon olive oil Directions Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Move one rack to the top of the oven. In a saucepan, simmer the corn with the milk and onion powder, if using, for 5 minutes. Combine the cornstarch with about 2 tablespoons water and stir well. Add the cornstarch to the corn mixture and whisk over medium heat for 3 minutes. Season the corn cream with a little nutmeg, salt, pepper and hot sauce if using. Remove from the heat, cover and keep warm. Boil the elbow macaroni in full rolling salted water for 4 to 6 minutes. Drain the macaroni well and add to the corn cream. Add the Cheddar, half of the mozzarella and the egg. Stir well. Pour into a 4-cup casserole dish or 12-inch cast-iron skillet and top with the remaining mozzarella. In a zip-top plastic bag, lightly crush the croutons using a small mallet or rolling pin. Stir together the oil and crushed croutons and spread over the top of the macaroni and corn mixture. Cook on the top rack until golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with hot sauce. This recipe was created by a contestant during a cooking competition. The Food Network Kitchens have not tested it for home use, therefore, we cannot make any representation as to the results.

Thanks! Creamed corn is an interesting idea for adding as much corny taste as possible to mac and cheese.

Back in 1984 I think it was when I was in my early teens, my father spent his sabbatical at Saclay. Holidays in Paris - hurrah! Once a week, an enterprising man would harvest oysters in Normandy during the evening and immediately drive overnight to Saclay, where he sold them from his van. Most week my my father got a small crate and they didn't last last many days in our fridge. Best oyster I've ever had ... .

You were probably enjoying the Belon oysters (or flat oyster), whose natural populations are down because of overfishing and disease (Bonamia).  They are harder to culture than the Pacific oyster that is the mainstay of oyster farming over there now.  Some think Belons are the best in the world.

I think that chatter got it! Aside from the milk + cream not being homogenized together, the milk itself wasn't homogenized either. Didn't think of that.

Yikes, it's time for me to change my email status to out of office! Thanks to Stan Allen and Jim Shahin for joining us, and to you, dear readers, for another spirited session. 

Prize winners: The mom with veggie-phobe kids gets "Eat Your Vegetables"; the chatter who asked her aged condiments  gets "The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook." Send your mailing address to and Becky will send out the books asap.  Next week, all our recipes will be no-cook! Be sure to check them out. Till then, happy juicing and oyster slurping!

In This Chat
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie Benwick is interim editor of the Food section; joining us today are interim recipe editor Jane Touzalin, staff writer Tim Carman, editorial aide Becky Krystal, Spirits columnist Jason Wilson and Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin. Guest: Stan Allen, scientist and creator of the triploid oyster.
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