Free Range on Food: Tomatoes, Julia Child and more

Aug 15, 2012

We're all about tomatoes this week, including how to grill and can them. We're also revealing the winners of our annual Top Tomato recipe contest. And in honor of Julia Child's 100th birthday, we'll have a Smithsonian curator and her new biographer chatting with us.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Celebrate good times, come on!

Don't know whether you've heard, but there's some Julia Child to-do up in here, because she would have turned 100 today. And we have the winners and finalists of Top Tomato 2012 in print and online; this is the sixth year and the imagination and creativity of our readers never fails to impress me. Wish Jane Touzalin was here to weigh in but she's the one on vacation this week. However, feel free to challenge Smithsonian curator Rayna Green and "Dearie" author Bob Spitz with Julia questions; and Cathy Barrow, who wrote the tomato canning Q&A. Tim Carman, Becky Krystal, Jim Shahin (did you catch his grilled tomato soup recipes?) and perhaps even Spirits columnist Jason Wilson will be on hand.

Chat giveaways: A copy of "Dearie" (maybe autographed, at that) and "The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian," source of this week's Dinner in Minutes recipe. Winners announced at the end of the session.  Hands in the air! Woot! Let's begin.

Hello, Rangers! I made sangria for a brunch on Sunday morning and have quite a bit of leftover peach and pineapple juices. Do you have any suggestions for ways to use them up? Savory preferred but sweet would be okay, too. Thanks for the help!

Here are some ideas for your pineapple juice:

Southeast Asian Grilled Pork

Pineapple-Rum Turkey Kebabs

Pineapple Sage Pina Colada

Grilled Pineapple-Pink Peppercorn Popsicles

Orange-Marcona Almond Salad With Pineapple Granita

Pineapple Gazpacho

Pineapple Gazpacho

Ceiba Honey Chicken Wings

I don't see any recipes in our database for peach juice, but perhaps you could use it instead of the pineapple in some of the above? You could probably also just reduce it into a syrup to drizzle over salads, yogurt, ice cream, etc.

I made the mistake of planting 4 Jalapeno plants this year and each one is producing 4X as much as I need. Any good ideas for what to do with a lot of these guys? Freezing, canning, drying, cooking? All options are open. I'd love to be able to somehow use them all year long (drying?) I also have a ton of Asian eggplant in my garden: purple, black, green and white. The contrast in color looks amazing but I don't know what to do with them all. Any ideas? I'd be happy to take suggestions on use the peppers and eggplant together or separately. Thanks!

Pickled jalapenos keep for a ridiculously long time in the refrigerator. Just pierce the whole jalapenos three or four times with a sharp knife then pack them in a quart jar. Add 1-2 Tablespoons pickling spice, a tablespoon of sugar and salt, a couple of garlic cloves, and a boiling brine made up of half vinegar and half water. Let them hang out in the refrigerator for a week before trying one. I use them in pots of black beans, sliced on tacos, or in a grilled cheese sandwich.

Blech! Except for tomatoes grown in someon'e backyard, I have not eaten a delicious tomato in decades. I remember eating delicious tomatoes when I was a kid, but they all seem to be tasteless and bland these days. Even the ones from the farmers' market. Any thoughts?

All the farmers say 2012 is one of the best tomato seasons in decades, so maybe it's time to try again? The summer heat we've all been grousing about is just perfect for the tomato. At many of the local markets, you can taste before you buy. Perhaps you're not a fan of the heirlooms? For many people, a Brandywine or beefsteak is what they remember from childhood, perfection in the tomato world.

Thanks for writing that tidbit about Julia's instructions for using the garbage disposal. I just discovered the onion skin problem myself last week but never would have thought to phrase it so charmingly. What a great lady.

You're welcome!

A good friend brought me some Hubigs Pies from New Orleans a few days before the ironic bakery burned down. As a fan, I tried to re-create them at home. The first time I used a bourbon peach handpie recipe from Smitten Kitchen, and the second time used a lard based crust, blueberry filling, and frying in a mixture of lard and vegetable oil. Frying seems to be the way to go, but I cannot seem to re-create the smoky flavor of Hubrigs or the ratio of filling to crust (I have too much crust to filling). Also, I preferred the baking method to frying, any tips for successful frying?

New Orleans native David Guas from Bayou Bakery has some tips:


* First off, he only fries in peanut oil at 375 degrees. The fry time depends on how big your handpies are and how stuffed they are.


* Second, Guas freezes his handpies for an hour before frying them. It helps the pie withstand the hot oil.


* Third, make sure you're using a cold, cold dough. Guas rolls his dough in 6-inch diameter discs, with about 2 to 2 1/2 ounces of filling in each.

* Fourth, when putting together your pies, prepare them one at a time. Why? Because if you spoon the filling in all of the pies at once, the filling in the first few pies could spread to the outer edges, making it hard to seal the egg-washed edges.


* Fifth, give some thought to preparing your pies in the palm of your hand. It helps to keep the filling in the middle of the dough and away from the edges.  Be sure to squeeze out the air as you're sealing the pie.

Mmm. Love handpies. Cathy, aka MrsWheelbarrow, makes killer sour cherry ones. Have you tried these Bourbon Apricot and Sweet Potato Handpies?

Jim, I live in Michigan where ring bologna is popular. I heard some people barbecue it (which seems weird). What's your take on this, and would you recommend it?

    Lemme tell ya, it only sounds weird. I used to live in Michigan and on weekends my dad would skillet-fry bologna to go along with the over-easy eggs. As I recall, the bolgona was nothing more than your basic packaged type, not ring. But somehow frying it in a little butter made the lowly meat special. Or maybe I just liked eating fried bologna for breakfast with my dad.

       Whatever the case, grilling ring bologna, which is denser than regular bologna, works great. In fact, there is a place in Memphis, Cozy Corner, that is famous for its barbecued bologna. 

       Personally, I prefer it without sauce. But if you like sauce, drizzle some on at the end of the cooking process, which, by the way, doesn't last long. Just slice the ring bologna in a fairly hefty hunk (about a half-inch), set up a fire for indirect (or direct, whatever you want) and grill about a minute on each side over medium heat, enough to slightly blacken; if you've set up for indirect heat, then shut the lid, move the meat to the cool side of the grill and smoke for about 3 minutes. (The smoking doesn't really do much in the way of cooking, just adds smoke flavor.)

        From there, be creative. Eat with eggs. Or put in a sandwich. Or serve with potato salad and beans, as you would a regular barbecue.  Or get all chefy and stuff with goat cheese for one of those high/low deals. Heck, it's bologna. Do what you like: it appreicates that you are paying attention to it at all. 


This one is for Cathy maybe. I'm about to be innundated with sweet, red peppers. The long thin type (Marconi), not bells. I usually roast them on the grill, peel the skin, and eat them at room temperature, but that only works if I have fresh ones to roast. Can I preserve these for long term use? Canning? Any other suggestions on what to do with these beauties?

Eugenia Bone, in her excellent canning book, Well Preserved, has a recipe for peeled, roasted peppers in a 2:1:1 vinegar:lemon juice:olive oil brine. She adds garlic cloves, but I do not. And 1.5 teaspoons per pint and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Thank you for today's veggie recipe from Mid-East cookbook. I'm trying to cut down on meat and love middle eastern cuisine but am allergic to eggplants (weird, I know), and it's great to find a good veggie recipe that doesn't include eggplants or beans (not that I'm allergic to them, but my husband doesn't like chick peas or favas, or really any beans that aren't Heinz vegetarian baked beans, but that's another post).

You're welcome.  You might want to check out shashuka recipes, and there's a whole range of tabbouleh/hummus/chickpea FLOUR ways to go. (Your husband will never know.)

I have instant whole dry milk that I am no longer using as my go to-milk but would like to give it another use. The other day I saw in a Hongkognese bakery dry milk buns or something like that, so Im thinking that perhaps I can do some baking goods with it? Any suggestion is welcome, bonus point if it is a relatively low fat recipe as the milk is already full fat.

Whole dry milk, eh? A good number of our recipes call for nonfat, but a few don't specify, so you could try what you have in these (only one is baking, sadly):

Slow-Rise, No-Knead Soft White (or Soft Light Wheat) Rolls

Bay Ice Cream

bay ice cream



That bread is so good. They're not baking recipes, but lots of recs on the ol' Internet for making hot chocolate mixes. Chatters?

I got a Living Social deal to try out a CSA and got my first delivery yesterday. I think I have a plan for most items, except for two absolutely gigantic squash. They are white and look like the little yellow patty pan squash you get (same shape). The two together are almost 3 pounds in weight. I've stuffed squash before, but never this big - how to do it? Or other ideas - can I just chunk it up and roast it? Shred and so something that way? Can I use this in any squash/zucchini recipe? Thanks for your help.


I feel your pain. Here are some recipe suggestions:


* Grilled Summer Squash Casserole


* All-American Spice Rub Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille


* Chicken With Summer Squash Salad and Fresh Herbs


You might also try something different: Dice a squash into smallish chunks, roast them (with a little cinnamon, salt and pepper) and serve them as a side for Peruvian seviche (instead of the usual boiled sweet potatoes).

I'm making this for dinner tonight. When do I add back the green beans? The recipe leaves them alone in their ice bath....

HATE it when that happens. Such a good recipe too. Healthful!. The beans go in with the partially cooked chicken, for that last 3 minutes of cooking time. The recipe's been fixed online.

Onion skins go in the compost bucket!

This seems to happen to me most summers, I find myself in a rut. I feel like I am always eating the same meals. The nightly question seems to be, "chicken, beef, or pork."  I am a lot less willing to spend a lot of time cooking in the summer and will avoid meals that take a long time in the oven. How can I give my meals a little more variety? Or, at least feel like it is a variety.

To address your first problem, here are this year's and last year's collections of no-cook recipes. I hope those will give you a little more variety. But also try to get inspired by area farmers markets. Stand in front of the beautiful produce and grab a bunch. Try a different fruit or vegetable each week. Do it whilst you can!

This year our Roma tomatoes have really produced. We have canned about 8 gallons of salsa from them (more than enough for gifts and our own use). But we still have some that are starting to rot on the vine. Do you have any good suggestions for preserving tomatoes for the winter. We have never tried to make tomato sauce, though we could use that.

Sauce and crushed tomatoes are two simple ways to preserve your crop (see today's Food section.) If you're really overwhelmed with paste tomatoes, make paste! It will take at least twenty pounds of tomatoes to make about a pint of paste. Make a sauce and then cook it down until it's the consistency of ketchup, then spread it out on sheet pans and bake at about 200F until it's the thickness you want, stirring every 20 minutes or so. This could take hours, by the way, but it's better than letting great tomatoes go to waste.

I freeze jalapenos every year when my colleague gives me a grocery bag full. I just put them whole uncut in tupperware and pop 'em in the freezer. Pull them out whenever I'm making soup or stew.

Thanks to the Smithsonian for getting the kitchen back together for this birthday! When I walked into the exhibition when it first opened, I immediately burst into tears. I grew up on her, met her several times, and have a framed note from her, signed "Bon Apetit," hanging in my kitchen. She started my love of cooking, I went to pastry school years later. Wonder if the Sur la Table in NW DC still has the big photo of her grinning with a bunch of flowers over their registers - made me want to shop there. I'll look forward to a drive back to DC to see the new installation.

We know you've been missing Julia and her wonderful kitchen, and that's why we've put her right back up. We opened the kitchen again this morning. It was packed at 10 am and its packed now with happy people looking at every knife and every pot. Please come back to the museum and see Julia again through September 3, when we'll close up again (except for a large porthole where you can see into the kitchen) to build a large exhibit on FOOD. And in November, Julia will be be back with FOOD.

Best milkshake ever -- In blender, use 1/4 to 1/3 more powder than called for to reconstitute. Add a banana and maybe some vanilla extract and blend.

Hot peppers freeze just fine, too. We always plant a lot and have a bag of whole peppers of various kinds in the freezer to pull from all winter. Homemade sriracha is another possibility (from Serious Eats).

Can't wait to try the grilled & chilled tomato soup. Sounds so light and "summery". Jim, so you have any overall suggestions for grilling vegetables?


      There is a lot of argument about how best to grill vegetables. I met a grill master in Tuscany who told me never to oil the grill or the vegetables. He maintained the grilling the vegetable "naked" resulted in more true fire/vegetable flavor. He insisted that a person should add flavorings (oil, herbs, whatever) only after the vegetables came off the grill. His grilled vegetables were the best I've ever eaten (I remember them these some 15 years later).

    For years, I tried his method and for years I failed. Whatever he did - the way he used his fire, perhaps - was light years beyond my capabilities. 

      These days, I still experiement with not oiling. But I often oil, too, just to see the difference. Usually, I'm happy I oiled. And what gets the slick treatment from me isn't the grate, it's the vegetable. I have found that oiling the grate does not work as well, as the oil tends to burn off, thus defeating the purpose. 

      So, short answer: oil the vegetable, not the grate. 

      Regarding not oiling, I never oil a pepper when I only want to char it to remove its skin. And you might try not oiling something you put on the grill alongside a grilled veggie, just to see how it goes. Who knows, maybe you will achieve Tuscan grillmaster status.

I'm hosting a birthday party this weekend for 2 adults and need an impressive, yet simple, dessert to serve. Ideas?

How about David Hagedorn's Zoe’s Aegean Pistachio Chocolate Tart?

Zoe’s Aegean Pistachio Chocolate Tart

It may be a little more work, but his Upside-Down Three-Chocolate Brownie Pie is a winner too.

Upside-Down Three-Chocolate Brownie Pie

Use the peach juice along with a splash or two of bourbon, cayenne pepper and chopped shallots in a reduction sauce for pork medallions. Nom nom nom.

Nom nom nom indeed.

Not according to the Post's Adrian Higgins, who says that temps in the 90s prevent tomato plants from flowering.

You're absolutely right, they don't flower in the heat, but they do ripen.

I grew up watching Julia on TV, and "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" was one of my first cookbooks. When I was in grad school in the late 60's, her coq au vin recipe was my staple main dish when my roommates and I had people over for dinner. (chicken was cheap, and we certainly didn't use good wine, but it stlll tasted great). Years later, I was the successful bidder at a Smithsonian Craft Show auction where the prize was a chance to help the curators for a day as they set up Julia's kitchen. It was really thrilling to be able to catalog her tools and pots and pans and look through her gadget drawer.

We had a wonderful time cataloguing Julia's kitchen. In 2001, before we put up the kitchen on exhibit, all sorts of folks worked with us. . . in front of an enthusiastic public.  .to inventory and catalog the 1200 objects we got from Julia. It was an extraordinary experience with friends of julia's, local chefs, cooks, foodies, restauranteurs, friends. . . . Everyone helped us get it done and put the kitchen up for a 10-year run. So thanks to all those people without whom we couldn't have given Julia to the public.

Can you use any of these tomato recipes using tomatillos? I have an abundance coming in from my garden and I would like to make something other the salsa verde with them.

Tomatillos can be canned. Husk and wash. Leave whole. Cover with boiling water with 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice per quart, then process for 45 minutes in a boiling water canner.

I'm loving all the Julia coverage in the Post and other pubs today. What a nice way to honor such an important culinary figure. The new book about her sounds interesting. I loved My Life in France. I have a confession though: I'm scared of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I would love to cook from it, but everything seems so complicated. And it's not like I'm not a good home cook, but most things I make are 1-hour tops, sometimes with day-before prep work. Are there any hidden recipes in there that I might tackle first? If it goes well, maybe I'd venture into the more time-intensive stuff.

Sure, there are simpler recipes throughout Mastering. But, as Julia always said, the trick is to approach the recipes without fear. Have the courage of your convictions. Do what she tells you to do, even if the instructions appear to be intimidating. She will walk you through every step. And above all, as she urged us, have a good time. Believe me, you will succeed.

She's from my hometown!!! Best chocolates in the states!!

I always roll my eyes when people don't know what to do with a little extra buttermilk or ricotta. Now it's my turn. What to do with extra lemon flavored cane sugar? I originally bought it to sprinkle on glazed scones but there is a whole bottle left. Should I melt for a glaze? I have about 1/8 cup.

That sounds like a fine idea.

I tried making a no-knead refrigerator yeast roll recipe, but something seems to have gone wrong. It says to punch down the dough before pinching off what you want to use: there was nothing to punch, it was a pretty solid mass. Also, although I left it to rise for a few hours, it never doubled in bulk, only increased slightly. (It took so long that it was bedtime and I just put it back in the fridge for the night and will try baking this evening.) Where would you start to troubleshoot?

My guess is that perhaps your yeast is no good. Try testing it.

Not sure if you answered this before but, is it possible to make gelato in an ice cream maker? If so how? Any must try recipes?

While you can lower the ratio of cream to whole milk (since gelato has less fat than ice cream), you'll have a hard time creating the texture of gelato in a traditional ice cream maker.


Gelato has less air in it than ice cream. I guess you could try to churn your base mixture at a lower speed, but it may get too warm before it's done.


Bottom line: If you want real gelato, you probably need a gelato machine.


But maybe chatters have different experiences?

Love hand pies. But a question. If I freeze -- do I slash before freezing or before baking? Do I thaw before baking or just leave a little longer in the oven? Can I brush frozen pie with egg before baking? Thanks so much.

I love handpies and keeping them in the freezer is the only way to satisfy that gotta have a pie feeling. Slash your handpies before freezing and bake right from the freezer after brushing with a little egg white. Hand pies take about 10 minutes at 425 and another 15 to 20 at 350. If you think you might want to fry them (what? you've never had fried pie?) don't slash the top crust.

At my UK boarding school in the 1970s we were often given fried liverwurst as part of breakfast - shudder. No wonder I'm a vegetarian.

Julia Child always regretted meeting vegetarians.  Her voice would drop two octaves.  "!"

If a recipe calls for cooking chicken 'til done, then adding other ingredients, should it be okay to use a rotisserie chicken and skipping that part of the cooking? I'm asking mostly for stir-fry dishes but I also would like to try it with recipes that have you return the chicken to the oven with some other ingredients and "heat through." Thanks very much!

You got it. Give that fan a contract!

Do you Rangers eat before the chat, during or after? I can hardly stay seated at the computer 'cause you have me wanting to EAT, so I wonder how you handle it. It happens to me pretty much every week at some point during the chat, but so far today, I'm salivating non-stop!

You know what? I get really hungry too during the chat, because I typically don't eat until afterward.

My husband and I have been happily married since 1966 which is proof that we agree on many things. One bone of contention is the length of time one can save food in the refrigerator and then still eat it safely. He is big on scraping and cutting around. We picked up beef and gravy for Italian beef sandwiches on Saturday night. We opened one package of beef on Sunday, popped it in the gravy and served it. The beef was consumed but much of the gravy was left. My husband refrigerated the gravy and is planning to use it Wednesday night. I say "ick, that is too long for a beef based gravy to be refrigerated and used safely." Please let me know what you think even if it does turnout that I am incorrect. Thank you so much. You are the best!

First of all, a mazel on your marriage. I can only hope. And now, for a  Solomonic answer -- and this is offered without knowing which brand/package of beef and gravy you use.  Generally, there's a 3-day rule for refrigerated leftovers. But I've kept brisket w/gravy for 5 days and lived to tell the tale.  And things that are vacuum-sealed seem to live longer. To allay your fears, strain the gravy and bring it to a boil for a few minutes (like I sometimes do with broth/stock that's gone longer than 3 days in the fridge).

In Jim Shahin's article on tomato soups, he said his friend, Marion, asked him what his favorite five foods are. Well, Jim what are they? Actually, any of the food writers chatting today could answer - I'd love to know. Thanks!!

     Oh, jeez, I was hoping I wouldn't be asked this. We just played this game a couple of weeks ago again (we seem to play it every six months or so) and every time the answer changes. 

      I will play by the rules that Marion and I set up that day: we may use categories when we want or specifics when we want. The foods can be a dish or a natural item.

      For example, on my list today: cheese. Yes, cheese. I'm nuts for the stuff. I cannot, and, fortunately Marion did not make me, choose. 

      As for a specific, I love barbecue (uh...duh!), but, of all the smoked meats, my heart belongs to brisket. (Literally.)

       Crazy about sloppy, cheesy Tex-Mex enchiladas, especially with a spicy ranchera sauce. (I like other enchiladas too, but this specific one is the only one that I dream about.)

       Watermelon. (This one is a change from my original list, which had a great Philly cheesesteak on it. A later list had my mom's stuffed grapeleaves.)

       And, yes, finally, tomatoes. 





Are lentils beans? One of us says no, because they cook too fast. The other says yes, because they are treated intestinally like beans. Thanks.

Lentils are considered a "pulse," by the Food and Agricultural Organization, because they're harvested for their dry seeds. But pulses are part of the legume family, which includes beans.


So I guess the answer is yes and no.

Why not just drink it, alone or in a smoothie? Yum!!

Put it in some cold sparkling water. Yum!

My mother disliked cooking, and her mother was a terrible cook so there was no tradition and ease to draw on. But when Julia Child started her show, my mother was inspired by the idea of no-fear cooking of what people might like to eat. Ms. Child showed my mother how to take the kitchen in stride. Thanks, Julia, for making our dinners better forever and for saving me from being the third generation of lousy cooks.

Have to admit my mom was a lousy cook, too.  (Sorry Mom!)  But she would watch Julia on Monday nights, take down the new recipe, and on Tuesday we actually got good food -- for a change.

I'm looking forward to the American HIstory Museum's food exhibit and will probably save my trip to see Julia's kitchen until then. Will this exhibit be similar to last year's food exhibit at the National Archives? While I thought that was interesting, I thought it focused too much on the immediate post-war period, and skirted some of the contemporary food controversies that would be interesting to explore in a museum.

The FOOD exhibit at American History will be quite different from the exhibit at the Archives in several ways. Their was essentially a poster show, with their rich and wonderful holdings on the government's role in food policy and food production. Our is very much a history show, with lots of objects. It's called Food: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000. And it will be the set-up for all these controversies and issues that everyone talks about today. Additionally, we'll have a giant communal table, an Open Table, where you can sit down with your fellow visitors to the show and talk about what you've seen in the show, and be promoted to discuss some of those very relevant issues that you're burning to talk about. Come November 20, come down and start the conversation.

Thanks for the canning tip, which I will use...but what do you do with them once canned?

My favorite non-salsa recipe for tomatillos --Boil the tomatillas in a bit of water and set aside. Saute shiitakes and bacon, then add onions and garlic, then softened tomatillas and cooking water. Cook to a sauce. Grill shrimp or scallops. Serve sauce over polenta or grits with shrimp or scallops.

Our firm is testing a new app based on zip codes and addresses and we had summer interns enter WP restaurant reviews and the competitions restaurant reviews to test the app. What we found is the WP and especially Tom have an aversion to reviewing restuarants outside the beltway in NOVA. The WP and its competition percentage of restaurant reviews outside the Beltway in MD was within a couple of percentage points. Interesting the WP's on databases show a signifcant majority of subscribers live outside the beltway in NOVA. Nice bias but why?

Tom responds:

If you could see my annual mileage report, you'd know the purported bias is simply untrue. I log hundreds of  (mostly ground) miles a month in pursuit of good food to share with Post readers. Most recently, for instance I was in Frederick (three times) to give the new Family Meal a taste-test. Not long ago, I spent three days in Charlottesville for a future restaurant column. Since I became food critic in 2000, I've made it my goal to review at least two suburban restaurants a month in the Magazine. I also cover suburban restaurants in the Food section's First Bite column. Did the reader miss Bistro Vivant in McLean, Sugo Cicchetti in Rockville, etc? Keep in mind, not all restaurants I visit end up getting reviewed. There are plenty of times I go to places (outside Washington) that don't warrant prime real estate in the Post.

I was happy to peruse the Top Tomato winners this morning, but that also got me thinking - I recently adopted a low-carb diet, but this is the time of the year when I go crazy making classic Italian pasta sauces with fresh tomatoes and I'm sorely craving coating pots of pasta in them and indulging. Any reasonable substitutions for pasta as a comforting delivery vehicle for sauce? Thanks!

I feel your pain. I've been making zucchini ribbons with a wide peeler and tossing them with warm sauce. It cooks the squash right through and keeps me on the straight and narrow carb-free diet I'm suffering through.

The Grilled & Chilled Tomato Soup recipe calls for chili water. While I normally would make things like this (e.g. I make my own taco seasoning), I just don't think I could use the entire amount leftover in 2 weeks. Is it possible to find chili water in a grocery store?

     I don't know.

     It's easy and really cheap to make and you'd be surprised what you add it to (other soups, various meat seasonings, a little with tomatoes, peppers, and onions for a sort of huevos rancheros). But you it is so cheap and so easy that (and I really hate to say this), you could just throw the rest of it out. 

      As for buying it commercially, maybe the Chatters have seen it somewhere. Guys and gals?

Our pepper plants have not been very productive this year, but last year I made about 6 quarts of pickled jalapenos - just sliced jalapeno, salt, white vinegar - for the counter. They get used up in 2-3 months, and there was never mold or off taste - but now I'm wondering if I "should" have refrigerated. The only ones I consider refrigerating are the half-empty ones where the juice might be lower than the peppers.

I generally refrigerate if I'm not processing for shelf stability, but I know of several pickles that need neither one.

I agree! The ones at my farmers market are FABULOUS and I only wish I'd bought 5 lbs more so I could test all today's recipes right away!

You can go back. I'll be getting someone to help me lug a 25-pound box to my car this weekend. #stillbadwrist

Do you have a grill? Throw them all on the grill until they're charred, then put them in a freezer bag for 20 minutes to let them steam. Remove from the bag, peel the charred skin off, remove the seeds from the center, and then freeze the rest. I recommend wrapping them individually and then freezing. THat way, all winter long you can pull them out easily, defrost, and chop up.

       Sounds good to me. 

I scored about a pound of fresh ginger at the market this weekend. Any ideas for what to do with it that would really show it off (sort of like how certain dishes that would normally have garlic really show off ramps)? I am planning to candy some a 'la Leibowitz--and use the stems to flavor rice. P.S. Thanks for dinner in minutes for tonight! Totally making it.

Perhaps you mean baby ginger, which some farmers have started to grow locally? Last fall, I wrote about Bill and India Cox who grow baby ginger on their Virginia farm. It's milder and less fibrous than mature ginger; it's also delicious.


In conjunction with last year's story, Becky K. pulled together a page of recipes that can incorporate fresh ginger.

My mother, who was a good Italian home cook, used Julia's cookbooks refine and master her techniuqes. She didn't cook every recipe, but she ended up, between the books and the TV shows, being able to do just about anything in the kitchen. Juila was a great teacher. My mother passed that knowledge on to me. To the reader who thinks it's too complicated: it's not. Pick something you like. Try it once. Maybe again if you did something wrong the first time...It's a much better culinary education than you will ever get on the Food Network.

Julia actually thought of herself as a cooking TEACHER first, and a cook second.  Her recipes are complicated -- but foolproof.  Once you master it, it is set in stone.

When the fresh tomatoes are in, I love just cutting up tomatoes, cucumbers and a bit of onion, add a little fresh mint, olive oil and lemon - great flavor, easy to make and simple to eat!!!!!

When I was at Smith College in the 1980s, one of Julia's pranks still made the rounds: She apparently painted all the toilet seats in her college house a lovely shade of green! To this day, when I hear people speaking of her so seriously, I think of that prank. She was a high-spirited girl and retained that zesty quality -- a great example for how to live a happy life.

She painted them green -- and hoped that somebody sat on one while it was wet.  That's the kind of prankster she was.

Tomorrow is my mom's 63rd birthday and I make her the same supermarket angel food cake with fresh fruit every year and I wondering about doing something different. My mom is somebody that hates when folks make a fuss over her hence the store-made cake.

Try Julia's Reine de Saba cake -- she considered it her masterpiece of desserts and made it often herself.

Today's fridges are much more efficient AND they keep food cooler longer. When we replaced ours a couple of years ago, we were staggered at how much longer food stayed good. I've eaten leftover pot roast that was more than a week old, with no problems.

Not endorsing, but onpassing.

Although totally inappropriate for the weather, decided in honor of the day to do from Way to Cook the Fast Saute of Beef for Two (which has one of the sweetest opening paragraphs of her explanation from her) and feuilletes aux poires. Although I never met her I miss her sense of humor.

Two great recipes to honor her.  Bon appetit!

It seems a shame not to use fruit when it is so abundant right now. At the risk of offending, the NYT Food section has recipes for apricot floating island and berry clafoutis (Julia recipe!) today, both of which would be perfect.

No offense. Those recipes looked great.  We're fans of Melissa Clark and David Tanis, to be sure.

No question - just a big "THANK YOU" for a great wine column today - informative, interesting, lots of suggestions at every price level and a great variety of places to purchase in MD, VA & DC. One of your better efforts - keep it up!

Dave McIntyre's been on a particularly good streak lately, hasn't he? His words stick in my head when I buy wine. We'll pass along your comments.

Thanks so much for the tips! I am excited to try them out. The Bourbon Apricot and Sweet Potato Handpies look delicious.

Try spaghetti squash. The first time I made it, a friend said, "it's good, but where's the squash?"

Tom's alleged bias gets addressed every other week. He goes far afield. Have you considered that he has tried and found wanting the restaurants you claim he overlooks?

Si! Love Pati Jinich.

If Mom likes store bought angel food cake, dress up the toppings. This one with grilled apricots and herbed strawberries caught my eye.

After I tasted Julia's coq au vin recipe as a young adult, I decided that chicken and wine were the only two ingredients I really needed to have on hand to make a delicious meal. This kept me going for years as a hostess. I'd forgotten about that until the chat reminded me. Thanks, Julia!

All of Julia's chicken/wine recipes live up to those standards.  There are about 50 good ones in her repertoire.

Miss her. I take her over any of the current crop of TV cooks Except for John Besh. Doesnt matter if it's PBS or cable forget Mario, Bobby, the geek with glasses, Steven, America's Test Kitchen. She didn't take herself seriously. and Mario and Bobby are way too pretentious to be anything but hall monitors at at all boys Catholic High School!

She was the real McCoy and totally unpretentious.  She may not have taken herself seriously -- but she took her cooking seriously.  That's why she remains the gold standard.

I was so excited to open the paper this morning and find the tomato edition of Food. It's one of the best annual specials you do and this year did not disappoint. The Dinner in Minutes recipe, although not part of the contest, sounds particularly intriguing. What is this spice, za'atar, it calls for? I've never heard of it. Since your note says you can substitute paprika, is that what it mostly is? Sounds interesting.

Za'atar is a combination of spices, so it seems every region, and nearly every cook, has their own version. There are many recipes online. Once you get the drift, you can personalize it. The recipe I used combined sumac, thyme, marjoram, oregano and toasted sesame seeds with a good amount of salt.

Did she continue to use dented pots and pans, wooden spoons obviously years old, metal spoons that had fallen into the disposal? Or did she keep things shiny-new?

She stuck with the tried-and true.  Some of her utensils date back 40 years. 

My mother, and then I, made that cake for every single dinner party, catering event, take as a hostess gift, etc we had. Seriously, I could make it blindfolded without a recipe. So easy and always turns out (be sure to underbake it). I actually riff off it now and stray from her recipe (sacrilege?) using different nuts, skipping coffee and using strong green tea and ginger, etc.

Hi gang--this delicious looking recipe isn't loading for me. Is it a Wapo problem, or me?

If you're putting exactly what you've pasted into your browser, it should be working. At least it is for me right now. Where were you accessing the recipe from? Sometimes the database has a hiccup.

I have made some recipes from that cookbook with good results but find that I'm more comfortable making recipes from The French Chef Cookbook. They're more streamlined and less intimidating.

Absolutely right!  It's like the Cliffs Notes version of Mastering.  You should also try From Julia Child's Kitchen.

Got a little overzealous when purchasing tomatoes at the farmer's market last weekend and we have some that need to be used ASAP. However, we're going out to dinner for Restaurant Week tonight so won't be able to use them for consumption tonight. Can you recommend a not overly complicated dish that calls for tomatoes to be set in something overnight?


Why not make a ragu? It's easy to make (though a little time consuming) and the sauce only gets better if it sits overnight (in my opinion).


Here's one in our database: Pork Ragu for a Crowd. You will probably want to scale the recipe down to fit your serving size.

for the question about extra dry milk, try one of the Momomfuku milk bar recipes, she uses milk powder a lot, to very good ends. I have (and adore) the cookbook but you can find a lot of recipes on line. the cookies with sprinkles, the corn cookies, compost cookies, all fantastic and all use dry milk powder. my question..I'm having 10 people over for dinner on friday and I'm making fajitas, my go-to group meal. But I think I need a new side. What is your favorite bean dish, or maybe a carrot salad/slaw? Or something with beautiful tomatoes? it doesn't necessarily need to go in the fajitas, but should kind of go with that concept...?

Let's go back through our Top Tomato archives, shall we?

Tomato Kimchi-Chi

Tomato Kimchi-Chi

Or Filipino Stewed Tomatoes.

I think it was last week when tomatillos were mentioned in a Jim Shahin article. I'm not familiar with tomatillos - I've seen them in the stores with a "wrap" around them - how does one use them, please?

Do you mean the little husks? Definitely get rid of those. You can use them many ways. Here are a ton of recipes. The most common is salsa verde

(what I grew up calling Cymlin) They really should be picked before they get that big and tough. Shame on the CSA.

Are you sure they're one and the same? Sometimes it's nice to have a big shaped squash like that...for a stuffed recipe.

Hello all! I am a huge fan and have always been a lurker in your chat until today. Can you help me find a punch recipe for the cocktail hour at my upcoming wedding? We want to have a big batch of punch with elements of a whiskey smash that we could have for our ready for our guests when they arrive. Do you have any go to favorites like that?

So the whiskey smash is sort of a cross between a whiskey sour and a mint julep -- but it's hard to make ahead. I don't have a ton of whiskey punch recipes that I make, but here's a simple, old-time American Whiskey Punch from cocktail historian Dave Wondrich:

Muddle one cup sugar with  peel of 2 lemons. Add 4 ounces lemon juice and 8 ounces water until sugar is dissolved. Add 16 oz. Wild Turkey Rye and 3 cups water. Serve over large block of ice in punch bowl. Garnish with lemon wheels.

Other than whiskey punch, here are a couple I always find that crowd pleasers, and might be nice for those who aren't whiskey drinkers: the Thieves Punch (with cachaca, port, lime juice, and bitters) and Jamaican Punch (with rum, lime juice, strawberry syrup, and allspice).

Arent there any decent places that serve Q in the DC area. Hill Bros is overated. Rocklands has declined significantly at all locations. Forget RHB. I ahve tried other palces recommneded by Tom and this site but they are gawd awful. Dixie Pig forget.

      Well, I'd say you have to pick and choose. 

      I've never heard of Hill Bros. Maybe you mean Hill Country? If you do, their moist-end brisket is a very good facsimile of the real Texas thing. If you haven't tried it, you might. 

       You could also give the rib tips at The Rib Pit on 14th NW a try. They can be chewy, but when they're good, they're awesome.

       The pork ribs at the Smoke Shack in Fort Washington are meaty and tender and have a characteristic Old School DC-esque saltiness to them. 

        You might check out; it reviews barbecue joints in the area. Check it out, at least for ideas. Then eat around and let us know what you find. 

I've added a cooking "wing" to my tumblr after followers said it'd be useful to watch my process in the kitchen. Any suggestions for capturing my food looking at its best? I watch the lights and use my iphone to keep it low key, but I don't want to instagram things. Many thanks!

We should probably have our photo staff answer this. But here are my two cents:


1. Use natural light as much as possible. Never use flash, which makes food look unappetizing in my opinion.


2. Do shoot everything from overhead, like you're the Goodyear Blimp. Shoot from the sides.


3. Don't feel you have to photograph the whole dish. Get close of details.

That sounds like so much work!

Eh, if you give them a good char, they peel off quite easily. And think of how great it will be when you want to use them in the future!

My favorite jalapeno recipe involves halving and deseeding the pepper, filling it with cream cheese, wrapping it in bacon and grilling it. YUM!

I have been getting conflicting info. when are my green zebras ripe. Green on green? Green on yellow? Do I wait until they are soft, or are the half ruined by then? Sungolds and green zebras doing well at my house. All red plants failed to produce.

Green zebras are a firm tomato. Just remind yourself of that when you go out to pick them. Look for a little yellow.

Zaa'tar is actually sumac - dried, beaten, sifted and many times mixed with other spices. Paprika does not have the same "lemony" taste. Zaa'tar can be found in most importing stores and now perhaps in the special sections of supermarkets.

Agree on the lemony bit.

Does Dave have a list of good Pennsylvania wineries to try...hate stopping at the Mason - Dixon line. I have been to the Adams County Winery near Gettysburg....and love it.

Chaddsford Winery in Delaware County up near Philadelphia is good, and a nice place to visit. But I'd like to perhaps put in a good word for New Jersey wineries like Sharrott and Amalthea. New Jersey wines? Yes, I said it.

If you have never heard of konnyaku you wouldn't be the first. It is a zero - 5 calorie gelatinous looking food that comes in a slab or in spaghetti like strings. I have used it as faux pasta and while it sticks together it worked pretty well. It's worth a try if you visit an Asian grocery store.

You've just made my day. That's all. Thank you.

Everybody mentions the Dan Aykroyd impression of Julia Child, but even better was the Julia Grown-up skits on the (original 1970s) Electric Company, with Judy Graubart in the role You can still see a few on YouTube.

But Julia's personal favorite was Dan's.  She would imitate it and act it out in her kitchen at home.  "Save the liver!"  It cracked her up every time.

For Jim: Based on your above answers of favorites foods I have to ask, do you ever smoke cheese? I have an uncle that does this, it's not really my style as I'm not a big fan of "smoked" but many family members love it.

       Actually, in all the smoking I've done over the years, the first time I thought about doing it myself was when my colleague Tim Carman first got a smoker and smoked some cheese. I recall him feeling it didn't quite hit the mark, but, me, I loved it. 

       I've smoked cheese several times since. I like smoked cheese, but, truth is, if a cheese is intended as unsmoked, that is how I prefer it.

I am doing well this summer finding good recipes for vegetables from my garden, but most of my herb plants have sat largely unused. I made basil paste last night to use up some of the Genovese basil, but I still have steadily growing Thai basil, sage, oregano, rosemary, and thyme plants and no good ideas for using them. Do you know of some good vegetarian recipes that would showcase some of these herbs?

We're running out of time, but have a look at our recipe database. Choose the "meatless" option and voila, instant ideas.

Should I peel the cucumbers? Once the water is flavorful, do I remove the cuke slices (and eat them?) or leave them in? Thanks!

I've never made cucumber water, but acccording to this source, you can prepare it two ways, neither of which call for peeling the cukes.

Real za'atar requires hyssop, an herb similar to thyme that grows in the middle east. It's amazing stuff. You can find hyssop-based za;atar in various Kosher groceries and from Kalyustans in New York. Big difference, really worth the effort to find.

Try an herb jelly! From "Can It!" Herb Jelly 2 to 3 ounces assorted mixed fresh herb sprigs and/or edible flower petals (such as nasturtiums, pansies, violets, violas, roses, calendulas, marigolds, dianthuses, daylilies, and/or geraniums) 3 cups unsweetened apple juice ¼ cup lemon juice 1 1.75-oz. package regular powdered fruit pectin 4 cups sugar 1. Gently wash herb sprigs and/or flower petals in water. Drain; place herbs or petals on paper towels and gently blot. Chop herbs with stems attached. Place 1 to 1 ½ cups firmly packed chopped leaves and stems or flower petals in an 8- to 10-quart heavy pot. Add apple juice. 2. Bring mixture to boiling, stirring occasionally. Boil, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover; let stand for 10 minutes. 3. Line a strainer or colander with a double layer of 100 percent-cotton cheesecloth; set colander over a large bowl. Strain herb and/or flower mixture through cheesecloth, pressing to extract all of the juice. Measure 3 cups juice mixture, adding additional apple juice if necessary. Discard stems, leaves, and petals. 4. In the same pot, combine juice mixture, lemon juice, and, if desired, food coloring. Stir pectin into mixture in pot. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Add sugar. Return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off foam with a metal spoon. 5. Ladle hot jelly into hot, sterilized half-pint canning jars, leaving a ¼-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims; adjust lids. 6. Process filled jars in a boiling-water canner for 5 minutes (start timing when water returns to boiling). Remove jars from canner; cool on wire racks. Makes 5 half-pints. Per tablespoon: 44 calories, 0 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 mg sodium, 11 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein

I use my standard bread & butter pickle recipe for jalapenos, slicing them into rings. They are wonderful! I think my recipe is originally from the Blue Book.

You can use it to top grilled fresh fruit (like pineapple or peaches) or to rim margarita or martini glasses.

Any recommendations for wines that pair well with tomatoes? I have a batch of creamy gazpacho I made last night waiting for me at home for dinner tonight, and I'd like to pick up something special to drink with it.

Well, since we're running out of time, I'll give you my amateur opinion. I'd go with a bottle of rose, which (depending on the producer) will give you some sweetness and crispness and mild acidity to align with the gazpacho.

I've heard good things about Shirataki noodles--that might be the same as the konnyaku another poster mentioned. Wegmans in Fairfax (possibly other locations too, but I haven't looked) sells them in one of the refrigerated cases.

That's Hungry Girl's thing, right? They used to be available at Whole Foods Markets.

Got crazy busy right at the end there! Many questions for Jane to tackle in her next Chat Leftovers. And we're all very hungry now. Thanks to Cathy Barrow, Rayna Green, Bob Spitz, Jim and Jason for joining us. All pros. Congratulations to our reader recipe winners, too.

Chat winners: The first person who asked about za'atar/Dinner in Minutes gets the Middle Eastern vegetarian book. The last Julia chatter who mentioned the Electric Company gets the autographed copy of "Dearie." Send your mailing address to and Becky will get the book to you.  Until next week, happy tomatoes!

In This Chat
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie Benwick is interim editor of the Food section; joining us today are interim recipe editor staff writer Tim Carman, editorial aide Becky Krystal and Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin. Guests: Rayna Green, Smithsonian co-curator of the Julia Child exhibit and the upcoming "FOOD: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000"; Bob Spitz, author of "Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child"; and Cathy Barrow, blogger and canning expert.
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