Free Range on Food: Cooking on vacation, simple fruit desserts and more

Aug 22, 2012

David Hagedorn shares his strategies for cooking on vacation. Joe Yonan's Cooking for One features easy, seasonal fruit desserts.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Well, good afternoon, campers. Who's left in town?  Seems like it might be a tad slow today, so bring on all those repressed cooking q's, whether they're about how restrictions on imported foods affect The Immigrant's Table, explored in today's Food section by Tim Carmancooking on vacation, a la David Hagedorn's The Process (MUST TRY that smoked chicken salad of his); single-serve desserts from Joe Yonan; brunch, lunch, tomatoes (TOP!), kale, you name it. Jim Shahin and Jason Wilson may join us.  Jane Touzalin and Becky Krystal are in for the hour as well.


Two lucky chatters could pick up a copy of either "Lobster!" by Brooke Dojny (source of today's Dinner in Minutes) or "Plum Gorgeous" by Romney Steele.  Winners announced at the end of the hour.  We're on.

So how exactly did you bring eggs on an airpline? Did you do carry on and just hold them on your lap the whole time? Or were they wrapped in a bunch of bubble wrap?

David can speak to his strategy as well, but when I bring home eggs from my husband's grandparents' farm, mine is pretty simple. The egg cartons are rubber-banded shut, placed in a canvas tote bag and stowed under the seat on the plane. It's important to not overwrap them, because I've had TSA ask me to open the cartons so they could check out the eggs. No problems. In the few years we've been doing this, we probably have only lost a handful of eggs to cracks.

I've actually found eggs to be pretty durable. I wrapped the plastic container (a square) in two dish towels and wedged the package in-between two other things  in my carry-on bag, making sure they were easy to access and unwrap if I had to.

Eggs on a Plane!

Posting early, so hopefully you will be able to get this. I now have two bottles (due to the fact that I thought I had tossed my last bottle) of fish sauce. There are only one or two recipes I use it in on a regular basis, so it normally expires before I use it again. Can I freeze it or do something else to preserve the shelf life? If I do freeze it will it make my freezer smell like fish?

Thanks for posting early. I refrigerate all my Asian condiments (except reg and low-sodium soy sauce) after they've been opened, including fish sauce. I haven't tried to freeze it but I think it can last at least a year, maybe 2, in the fridge.  I think if you were going to freeze it, do so in mini resealable plastic food storage bags -- maybe in tablespoon or 1/4 cup increments --  laid flat till frozen. Then you can stack them inside a heavy-duty freezer-safe bag.  Should be odor-proof.

This is probably more of a Travel Chat question, but I am sure the Food chatters travel too. I'm flying to Boston and thought about bringing a Dangerously Delicious pie with me. Do you think there will be a problem packing it in my carry on luggage? Or should I check my bag. I'm sure the shape will result in TSA give it a closer look.

So happy to answer this, as a member of the Travel staff as well. According to TSA, "You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening." I would not put the pie in your checked luggage. That would be the end of it.

The link should be this. Not this.

Fixed, thanks. This is one of the local winners' recipes in the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, previewed in KidsPost last Sunday. The kids "State Dinner"-type lunch was Monday. (The recipe makes enough for two, I think!)

Hi! The recipe for fire and smoke gazpacho looked great, but I am one of those unfortunates without a grill handy. Am I out of luck with this one, or is there a way to approximate this recipe for the grill-less? I have a George Forman grill, but I imagine that won't provide the same effect.

      There are a number of good, cheap portable grills on the market that don't take much space and do a fine job.

     You can also smoke the tomatoes in the oven in a contraption you make yourself from a baking pan with a rack and a lid or you can buy a stove-top smoker. We did a story on the method.

 Smoke the tomatoes for about 20 minutes. 

I ate lunch at Cava Mezze Grill in Tysons Corner on Monday and really loved the braised lamb. Can you point me to any recipes that might give me something similar - almost like pulled pork but with lamb that you could put into a pita? Side question - is it owned by Chipotle? The concept was so similar I thought it must be heavily influenced by them. Thanks!

This Moroccan braised lamb is very tender, and just great, from Joan Nathan's last book.

I think more than one restaurateur has picked up on the Chipotle-style assembly line, don't you? Cava Mezze's owned by Grigoropoulos and Ted Xenohristos.

Where are you guys on the need to marinate meat for a long time? I've read several articles talking about the science of it, and it really does seem silly, outside of a brine, to spend more than a minute marinating meat because none of the herbs can penetrate the meat and acids don't do enough to actually tenderize the meat. Yet I still see recipes from chefs I really respect calling for marinating meats for hours and sometimes overnight. So I'm coming to you, the people I know and trust: Do I have to soak meat for a long time, or is a quick douse in it perfectly fine?

I have seen recipes that call for marinating many things overnight and questioned the sagacity of this strategy. I covered the subject in this Real Entertaining piece on kebabs and marinades. My advice in this column is to err on the side of underdoing it on the time you leave meat in a marinade, say 4 hours for beef, 2 for chicken and 30 minutes max for fish and seafood. But use your common sense. A whole chicken could withstand an overnight marination, whereas a butterflied chicken breast really only needs a half-hour.

A lot depends on how much acid there is in the marinade, because that is what denatures the protein and makes meat mushy over time.

Andreas Viestad, in his Gastronomer column for us, came down on the side of less time for the very reason you mention: It doesn't really penetrate. Here's his explanation.

I believe I pulled the recipe for grilled Lacinato kale off your website. Had to post today -- hands down, one of the most delicious vegetables I have ever eaten! (Don't think it would work well with curly kale, though; it needs to lay fairly flat on the grill.)

Hmm...are you sure? Not too  long ago we ran Joe's grilled cabbage recipe, which has been a game-changer in my back yard. Every time something gets grilled, we throw on the cabbage as well. However, we do have a fine and ever-expanding kale recipe collection.  Check it out.

Something seems wrong. Using Safari on a Mac here...the chat looks terrible -- formatting is all wrong. Seems okay in Google Chrome and Firefox. I've emptied Safari's cache, it didn't help.

I forwarded this to our chat tech people. They said they'll keep an eye on it, though they haven't gotten any other complaints.

I found it interesting that the French chef pointed out that there are far more inhumane practices, but the government does not curtail those. He went on to call this level of involvement almost Communist. To be fair, the government is far more involved in our lives than just curtailing the production of foie gras. If you are going to argue that the government is turning into a nanny state, there are far better, and more relevant, examples than foie gras.

Yes, but remember that this is the Food section, not the Politics section.

I want to try a recipe for tea-cured salmon but the recipe I have doesn't specify if the tea leaves should be dry from a tin (or teabag...) or wet from having steeped and reconstituted in hot water. Do you happen to know? Also, what sort of taste might this have, compared to smoked salmon, Nova or gravlax? Here's the recipe I was thinking of using. I found it through a link at a DC farmers market website, I think Dupont Circle, but I didn't copy the url:

Tea Cured Salmon

1 pound salmon, skin on

2 cups leaves of Lapsand Souchong tea

1 cup sugar

1 cup kosher salt

Mix the tea, sugar and salt together and pat it all over the salmon filet. Put the salmon into a non-reactive baking dish, cover with the rest of the curing mix and cover with plastic wrap. Weigh down the salmon with a brick or heavy can. Refrigerate for 2 days. Remove the salmon and rinse off the curing mix. Slice thinly separating each slice from the skin. Thanks!

Looks like it's loose tea (not steeped) that you'll need here.  Generally, stuff in bags is not top-grade tea, or it's ground too finely for this preparation. So mix the dry ingredients together, kinda rub it into the salmon and proceed.

Will make with my next basket of peaches! Only, how do you make your homemade greek-style yogurt? I've finally more or less mastered homemade yogurt (though only successful with whole milk), but think I'd lose 9/10th of it if I strained it for cheese.

Great! Indeed, to make the Greek-style yogurt, I just strain.At my sister's, there's a nice-sized strainer that's fine enough for me to avoid the need for cheesecloth. The reduction in volume is about 50% for me, but you can strain for however short or long you like. I start with a half-gallon of milk, which turns into, of course, a half-gallon of yogurt, which turns into a quart of Greek-style yogurt. I use less of the latter than I would non-strained yogurt, so it works for me!

I only partially read the article on the issues with food and immigration due to lack of time this morning, so please excuse me if this was covered. With regard to restrictions, I understand issues regarding safety (potential poison) and resource depletion (ex: over-fishing). However, did you also delve into cultural issues? In this case I am referring to general aversions to seeing the whole animal or distinguishable parts (head, eyeballs) or the types of animals which are eaten (horse, mule, etc) which may lead to people to boycott restaurants or disparage other cultures. For what it's worth, I ask because during the years I lived in Italy I experienced several dishes and/or ingredients that get me looks of disgust when I mention them (mostly head on fist of cured horse meat (like prosciutto)). Then again, times change in other countries too. Polenta e osei (polenta with little song birds) is now outlawed in Italy and has been replaced by a look-alike dessert.

I didn't directly deal with dishes that are acceptable in one culture, but abhorred in another, like dog and rat eating in some Asian cultures. But I also think that foie gras is one of those dishes that falls into this category. As noted by more than one person, it's easy for America to give up foie gras, because it's not entrenched in our culture.  Can you imagine such a ban in France?

Why but why do Giant and Safeway cook their rotisserie chickens to the point they're totally dry and almost inedible? Is there a peak time of day to buy them when maybe they're still moist? Ideally, I'd like to get 'em on the days when they're only $5 but maybe that's asking too much. Does another DC supermarket make moist rotisserie for bargain prices? Or should I expect to pay at least $10-$15 per chicken if I want something moist and tasty? Thanks for letting me ... er, let off steam ...

A question for the ages.  Best bet:  Ask the deli dept in your store when (and if) they rotiss in the store. And I think those storage containers/they way they keep chickens warm might be part of the problem. If I may ask, do you like the convenience of already roasted chicken, or the flavor of those store-rendered birds?  Costco does rotisserie chickens, don't they? Have you ever tried birds from Peruvian/El Salvadoran chicken places? Jane and I are keen on El Pollo Rico in Arlington.

I'm from New England so hand me a live "lobstah" and no problem. But I am in Maryland now. How do I cook a live crab and how do I get the meat out?

Here's a video we did last year with crab expert chef John Shields. We'll soon put it up on our homepage again, because we're getting into the better part of crab season.  We were just talking about this in our meeting the other day...crabs are usually bigger and cheaper in September, but everybody likes to hit them in July....

Is there no way to get foie gras humanely, without force-feeding the birds? They wouldn't eat enough food on their own?

From my research, there is apparently a farm or two that produces foie gras without force-feeding, but the livers don't swell to the size that France (the major consumer of the dish) requires.

I was reading about oven-dried tomatoes recently, which sounds like an interesting thing to make this time of year, although I'm not sure what I'd do with them. Put them in sandwiches? How would you use them?

I've been making these for years (here's my recipe), and I put them on salads and in sandwiches, yes, but also on bruschetta, and stirred into pasta for an instant sauce. They also are great to intensify tomato sauces and even gazpacho. They act like tomato paste in that way, really. Love em. You should do a bunch and freeze them, btw.

Hey guys, two weekends ago, I attended two parties on the same day. The hostesses of both parties specifically asked me to bring a dessert, so I spent that Saturday morning making bacon chocolate chip cookies and a cheesecake with roasted peaches. The whole process took me about four hours. However, when I got to both parties, I discovered mine wasn't the only dessert. At the first party, the hostess had provided a ton of store-bought cupcakes and other cookies, and at the second party, a friend of the hostess had provided a birthday cake for the star of the day. Obviously, my desserts were ignored. Now, don't get me wrong, I didn't expect people to come fawning over my food. Who wants to say no to cupcakes? (Well, I do actually, but my cookies didn't look like much compared to them, and it wasn't obvious there was BACON in them!) And of course, I'm not going to get all huffy when people chose to eat a birthday cake that, I have to admit, was quite yummy. But it still sucked, because I put a lot of effort into my desserts and spent money on them. The cheesecake is still sitting in my fridge as I've tried to keep myself from devouring it (it's unfortunately really good but I'm trying to not become, you know, hugely fat.) So, what should I have done? I'm very aware that I REALLY like it when people tell me how much they like my baking, so I try to counteract any possibilities of me getting annoying by not pushing my food on people. I also don't want to get into a baking war with other people. Is there a polite way, though, to remind people of the food I brought?

I think it would have been perfectly okay to invite guests at the party to try your cake, under the persumption that you'd love to know their opinion.


I think a situation like this requires a more pro-active approach to get your baked goods into people's hands. You might be uncomfortable "hustling" your work, but you obviously put a lot of care into it and were specifically asked to contribute a dessert. The hosts of each party WANTED your baked goods there. So make sure the guests try them. Consider it good, old-fashioned self-promotion.

This is hindsight, of course, but when it came to the cookies, at least, here's where a little garnish might have helped. If you had put a little piece of candied bacon on the top of each one (bacon baked in brown sugar until it becomes caramelized and firms up when it cools), I bet people would've gone for them!

Am I reading this correctly? You took your cheesecake back even though you were, of course, happy to comply with your hostess' request, graciously and generously?  That made your cake a gift.


"Thank you so much for having me. I see you have a lot of terrific looking desserts already, so please feel free to freeze mine to enjoy later."



Similar things have happened to me more than once. I now always ask the host/ess how many people I should be cooking/baking for, and that usually elicits information like "30 are coming, but I have two other people bringing desserts in addition to you." That at least gives me an idea of what I'm getting into.

They do, and they are so much better than the Giant and Safeway ones.

I'm been fooling around with a ketchup recipe, and think I've developed something good enough that I want to share with family and friends, and I'd love to can it as a gift. It has apple cider vinegar in it, so I think it's acidic enough, but I'm not sure how to tell. Also, if I'm canning it, should I replace the honey I'm using as a sweetener with something else?

Friend of Food (and frequent contributor) Cathy Barrow responds:


Well, as a rule of thumb "fooling around" and canning aren't compatible. That is not to say that new recipes aren't developed every day, but a few key things must be considered for safety.

I'm assuming you are a veteran canner. Tomatoes are notoriously variable in their acidity, so the ratio of acid, in your case apple cider vinegar, to tomatoes is very important. If you are able to find similar recipes from trusted sources (Ball Blue Book of Preserving, NCHFP are two places to start) and the ratios are the same for tomatoes to acid, that's a good double check.

Next, if your recipe includes garlic or onions or peppers or chiles, these are additional low acid elements that could turn your ketchup into botchulism soup. The same is true of any protiens, fats or oils.


Finally, to be extra safe, you might consider pressure canning your ketchup, as pressure canning (not pressure cooking... pressure canning) will take the ketchup to 241 degrees inside the jars, effectively killing off any botchulism spores. Again, look to trusted resources to see how long ketchup is processed, and what size jar is recommended.

So, it's not simple, by any means. Locally, Dr. Martin Lo at University of Maryland runs a testing lab and will review your recipe for a fee. His e-mail address is

For all the effort, have you considered freezing your ketchup?

I am looking for a dessert that can be made in advance, will hold up well to traveling in the car and use some of yummy the seasonal produce at the farmers market right now. I'm looking beyond the crumble/pie route. Any thoughts?

That salad sounds really good. I used to make a salad with chopped chicken breast, smoked almonds, scallions, mustard and mayo that I loved. Should revisit that. Is smoked chicken something you can buy? I don't have the means to smoke my own.

You can buy smoked chicken in most grocery stores these days. Nueske's makes a good one, but you may want to make a small batch, as it is a little pricey. I love alomds in chicken salad—they would make  nice addition here.

Try Harris Teeter - I used to get them from the one at Potomac Yard, and could often wait and get one fresh out of the rotisserie. And it may vary by store as well - every time I've gotten one at the Giant by me (Kingstowne) its been fantastic.

I'm looking at the West Indies Salad recipe and can't imagine how, after swimming in all that vinegar, the crab meat would retain any discernible taste. How's the flavor?

Needless to say, I was skeptical. My first thought was that 24 hours was way too long, but a couple of hours would be fine. It wasn't. It was a bland salad. Oddly, the salad is terrific after 24 hours and even better the day after. The crab flavor becomes pronounced enough to stand up to the vinegar and the oil and onion provide sweetness and extra richness. The resulting liquid is a terrific dressing over sliced tomatoes. 

What can I say? It didn't make sense on paper, but it worked. Everyone who tried it was hooked and it's now a permanent part of my repertoire. it is a smashing summer lunch entree or dinnertime fisrt course.

If you guys ever have a slow day, and I suspect you don't but anyway, you might check the links on the AYCE blog roll. Some of them no longer work. Sorry I didn't make a note of which ones.

We went through them several months ago. Pretty soon, I think they're getting redesigned off the page, anyway.

I use Safari. I have no problems. I wonder what version the OP was using.

I'm on my 3rd day of left over ratatouille. I've had it as a side dish with roast chicken and over pasta. Do you think it would be good in an omelet? Any other ideas for the leftovers?

Yep, an omelet, but even better, IMO, would be a frittata. Just use 2-3 whisked and salted eggs in a small cast-iron skillet over medium heat, and cook them for a few minutes, lifting up one edge and getting the eggs to run underneath and cook more, a few times, and then when mostly set but still a little moist on top, scatter on some of the ratatouille plus a little goat cheese or feta if you're into that, and slide it until the broiler for a couple minutes. Some fresh herbs and Parm after that are nice...

I might puree  and freeze it; you could add to soups or sauces later on. You've done your rata-duty for now.

Hmmm, I thought that fish sauce was not supposed to be stored in the refrigerator because it crystallized there. As somebody who assumed that it should go in the fridge, I found this to be the case, and now it lives in my pantry. Am I off base?

I guess anything could crystallize if it's not sealed properly. I have had no probs of that nature.

Walmart, Costco and Sam's Club chickens are wonderful, not overcooked or dry. And they mark them with times when they are sitting in the warmers.

There you go. Our chatters rock.

Hi Rangers, A bunch of friends have rented a house in the Outer Banks over Labor Day, and we all love to cook. We wont know exactly what is in the kitchen (pots, pans, etc) till we get there. We will be driving, so it wont be too big a deal to shlep along some kitchen wares or foods from home. Is there anything you suggest we take along to ensure that we aren't without it? thanks!

I'm sure everyone will weigh in here, but the first thing that comes to mind is a good all-purpose chef's knife and/or a bread knife. The chances are good that what is bought for a summer rental is not the greatest quality, and that's more acceptable for a pot than for a knife. I'd also bring a graduated set of measuring cup/spoons. And a remote thermometer if you plan to do any grilling. And take a spice collection. It really adds up when you're buying $5 jars of herbs/spices just to use a teaspoon. and a big bag of rub—it becomes an all-purpose seasoning for the whole vacation.

David stole the words right out of my mouth. Definitely with him on the chef's knife and measuring spoons and cups. If you're really paranoid, you can't go wrong with a basic, nonstick 12-inch skillet. But perhaps the agency you rented from can help you? Doesn't hurt to ask. Spices are good, as are extracts if you're planning on doing any baking. I kicked myself for having to buy a tiny, overpriced bottle of vanilla this year at the beach when I had a great, big bottle from Costco at home.

Ditto all that, and I'll add one if you're coffee drinkers: a grinder and a French press. Nothing makes me feel less in the vacation spirit than having to brew pre-ground coffee in a pathetic little machine. 

     Echo chamber in here: I agree with everything that's already been said. I would just add, that if you have room in the car, take a portable grill. 

As I mentioned in the AWCE blogpost calling out for reader input on their vacation cooking tips (hey! chatters! go there and contribute! but not right now!), I'm bringing jams and conserves and tomatoes I've canned at home. It's nice to have good ingredients to work with, and a variety of options for breakfast toast.

Maybe OP's Mac is having some sort of problem.

I have lots of leftovers from a catered Tex Mex style meal. My husband and I have been eating the leftovers for 2 days now and we are tired of Tex Mex, but still have tons left. I hate to throw it out, but I cannot stomach another bite right now. Will any of this freeze well?


Here's what we have left: diced onions (with cilantro chopped up in them), 2 kinds of salsa, black beans, pinto beans. Or, if you have some idea of how to use any of these ingredients right now in a way that isn't too Tex Mex-ish, I'd love to hear it. Thanks!

Use the salsa as the basis for a vinaigrette -- about 1/4 cup of it mixed with more oil, vinegar, Dijon and honey would make it pretty nice, and take it out of the Tex-Mex realm, leaving a little spice.

You could rinse the pinto beans and use them to good effect in this Asian Bean and Barley Salad, scaling it up as needed, of course.

The onions, even with the cilantro in them, you could saute with garlic in olive oil to begin all manner of dishes, such as tomato sauces, or they could go into lamb curry meatballs, and the cilantro would make perfect sense.

The black beans? Hmm. I love them so much I wouldn't have a problem with this -- and I'm from Texas, so I never tire of Tex-Mex! -- but maybe for you the best thing would be to puree them and even thin them out for a soup, adding maybe curry to take them a little out of the Mexican realm again. 

My wife is from Greennville, Alabama, and we got married at The grand Hotel in Point Clear and spend a lot of time in Perdido Key, and Orange beach Al. One rule I know is that you never mess with The West Indies Salad Recipe. We get Jumbo Lump from Perdido Seafood and it comes from Bon Secor...$20 a lb and beautiful. We have with boiled royal red shrimp and succotash .tomatoes and field peas and I'm a snowbird from DC and love it. Black salt occasionaly gets the Royal Reds...I'm Smokin Joe McKay

That's a great story, Smokin' Joe. I was fully expecting some "don't mess with the West Indies Salad" emails, because that caveat appears in the headnotes of most of the recipes I saw. But, to me, it needed a little somethin'-somethin'. Maybe because the first iteration I tasted of it (at a semi-chain known for this salad in Alabama) was not very good.

And adding water to it just doesn't make sense to me. Every time I tried the recipe straight, it was just watery.

You can take non-liquid food items in your carry-on luggage. I took a carton of TastyCakes and several cans of Old Bay in my carry-on bag when I flew to Africa (these were presents for the people I was visiting). My bag was searched by hand at every airport, not surprisingly, but nothing was confiscated. However, my nephew tried to bring back a baggie of spices bought from a street market in Cameroon, and it was confiscated at Dulles.

A friend brought me a 32-oz styrofoam cup of mole paste from Mexico, just purchased from a mole store, a few days before 9/11/01. He could never-ever get that through airport security nowadays. <sigh>

Yes, that's true. I haven't researched this point, but I suspect you can buy Mexican mole online and have it shipped here.

Freeze it! We make huge batches at the end of every summer, and freeze them in plastic containers. Pull them out throughout the year for simple meals.

Yes.  Does anybody have a big enough freezer with everything in it well labeled?

David, what was the brand of the biscuits that you bought and turned out to be so good? Are they available here?

The wierdest thing: there was no name on them and no mention of where they were made. I put in a call to the manager there, but it hasn't been returned yet. They were just frozen biscuit dough disks in a Ziploc bag. (We're supposed to call those "resealable plastic food storage bags.") The ingredients were listed and that was all. And the nutritional analysis.

I can vouch for this. David showed me the package, and I ate a biscuit!

hi rangers! i have noticed that no matter what i set the "humidity control" slide to on my crisper drawers in my fridget, i get condesation in the drawer, and my veggies get all wet. it's really annoying and leads to quick spoilage of anything that is in there. any thoughts on how to prevent this?

That's why I call the crisper the rotter! Well, that, and the fact that out of sight, out of mind, which is never a good thing. It sounds like your fridge isn't acting like it's supposed to, but short of seeking a repair job you should make good use of paper towels. Wrap things in them before putting them in bags that have holes in them, and change the paper towels every couple of days, and that should help slow the march toward rotten.

Don't get me started on residential refrigerator design. Who decided we need all those compartments? They take up space and don't fit the need, most times.  Plastic egg trays on the doors? Silly.

After nearly 10 years as vegetarians, my husband and I have decided to add meat back in to our diet. (Yes, yes, we're aware of what everyone has to say about this.) Our rule is that we're only eating locally-raised, free-range critters (buying most of our meat from the local farmers' markets), so that means mostly eating meat that I cook at home. My question is, is there a book/Website/blog out there to learn about meat? What are the different cuts? What are the best ways to cook these different cuts? And so on. I have to admit, I am clueless about all of this. I've managed to do justice to a pork loin and a whole chicken, but I'm feeling the need to branch out further. Thanks for your help!

I'm moving in the opposite direction as y'all, but I do like "How to Cook Meat" by Schlesinger/Willoughby, "The River Cottage Meat Book" by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and "The Complete Meat Cookbook" by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly.

If something is inhumane, it is inhumane. Just because there happens to be something else out there that seems worse, doesn't mean people shouldn't do something about it.

But remember this about foie gras: There is no consensus about whether the process is inhumane or not. The research on foie gras production and its effect on ducks and geese is very, very thin.


Most would, I think, agree that caging the birds during gavage is inhumane. But those producers who allow the birds to roam would seem to be in the same camp as the free-range farms that people promote and endorse.

Tim, I'd think the research on foie gras production and its effect on ducks and geese would be very fat.

COSTCO has a great one, plus is $1 cheaper and 1 lb larger than Giant.

OP here. I like that I don't have to do the cooking AND they cost less on the $5 days than if I bought an uncooked chicken. Of course I love the chickens from the Salvadoran/Peruvian places, and also from Rocklands -- yum, yum, YUM -- but they cost at least double what the supermarket chicken costs -- which is why I wondered aloud if I should simply figure on paying more. Also, unfortunately, the one such place near me now overcooks their chickens, too! Last, I am car-less in far NW DC so a Costco trip or El Pollo Rico in Arlington is a major undertaking. But maybe I'll do it anyway. Or maybe you can tell us the secret to making the Salvadoran-Peruvian chickens at home?

You can bet that we've asked for those recipes more than a few times.

The chatter could also add some smoked paprika. This is NOT a traditional gazpacho ingredient but could add a nice smokey flavor.

I bought an 8 ounce container of Half-&-Half for a recipe that only used a quarter cup. Any suggestions for using up the rest? It didn't work as well as I'd hoped on pasta, where I tried to substitute it for cream.

I'm not near any of my cookbooks at the moment, but I suggest that you look at ice cream recipes. So many of them call for equal parts milk and cream, which is what half/half is, so you can substitute it there very easily.

I found nice looking sirloin beef ribs at Wegmans this morning, but am not sure how to cook them. Would grilling be appropriate, and if so, how to season them? Thanks for your help.

     I love beef ribs. I just smoked one the other night. Cooked low and slow on indireect heat, the otherwise tough cut of meat comes out soft as velvet and rich in flavor.

     Cook them over indirect heat (fire on one side, meat on the far side, away from the fire). Use low heat, about 225 degrees F. Add hardwoods, such as pecan or oak. Smoke for longer than you would think you should - anywhere from four to six hours (even longer, if the ribs are gigantic). 

     The meat is so good when smoked that I keep the rub simple: just salt and cracked pepper. I don't want some complicated hoo-ha getting in the way of this truly kingly treat. 

Earlier this summer, you posted a link to an article on how to dry dill. I can't find it. If it's not too much trouble, please post it again! I will be dill-err-iously grateful if you do. So many thanks! (By the way, I think dill is the best herb for tomatoes, even better than basil.)

Maybe this is what you were talking about?

If you have time for a background sort of question, I'm curious, does the Washington Post have a kitchen where you test recipes? Or do you have to take your work home with you? Also, who gets to taste the dishes besides the person who cooks them, and how much do their reactions influence you, for example, if you think something's sublime but another taster finds it cloyingly sweet?

We do have a small kitchen, but it's not well equipped for testing. Instead, yes, we take our work home with us and we also have a fleet of fabulous volunteers who test for us. Members of the food staff -- sometimes just one, sometimes several -- taste everything that goes into the paper (and also those that don't get published because they don't make the grade). We rely on our testers to share their opinions about what they've made, and sometimes they have great ideas about how to make something better or easier. There's not really much disagreement about what's good and what's not -- no food fights here!

I'm intrigued by the Food Etiquette LW's dessert! Would he/she please share the recipe? Would love to try making something like that.

Food Etiquette, are you still there to submit the recipe?

In the meantime, here's Michel Richard's Haute-Meal Cookies. They don't have chocolate chips, but I bet they'd take to them well! They're bacon-spiked oatmeal cookies. I tested them, and love.

Me again. I do believe that some object to fois gras on cultural grounds, but I don't see that as the main issue. Foods that are initially foreign frequently gain acceptance in our culture over time. I personally don't object to fois gras, but do object to gavage. This is different than the conditions that occur at the cramped feedlots (whose products I also avoid), but is not humane treatment as I see it. The question is where do we as a society draw the line on humane treatment of our animals. Beyond that, without meaning to be rude, it's an individuals issue to get over their issues.

Animal cruelty is something that I mull over with great frequency. If you're a meat eater in this country, it's impossible not to think about it -- and to think about where you will draw your own ethical/moral line.


The government allows all sorts of inhumane abuses in the name of cheap, fast food. Consumers have a choice to decide whether to support these farming systems or not. Shouldn't consumers in California be afforded the same choice with foie gras?

We planted a Burbank plum tree when we bought our house two years ago, only to discover later that you actually need two plum trees for cross-pollination. To be honest, I'm almost afraid to plant a second plum tree because I'm afraid of the onslaught of plums that two trees would provide. Not sure what to do, as one that doesn't produce, would be a waste.

If your neighbors are anything like me, they would LOVE to be the beneficiaries of a plum onslaught.

Just talking through my hat here, it seems like there must be ways to cut down on the number of blossoms that get pollinated. Maybe the nursery you buy your tree from can give you some tips.

I've been keeping balsamic vinegar in one of those decanter bottle things (I have a separate one for olive oil). When I used the balsamic last night, I noticed that it was...chunky. Is this normal? Should it be tossed?

You keep it on the counter or in the fridge?

Sister Schubert are the best and I even enjoy Boiled peanuts...get a drink at tacky Jacks or go to Jimmy Buffets sisters palce...Lulus..Her name is Lucy!

Gearing up to cook for my husband's birthday party in a couple of weeks - we have a four-month-old at home so I'm out of the habit of party cooking, but really really looking forward to cooking up a storm for this one. Two things I need: a super-moist vanilla cake recipe (will have a requested pear-caramel filling) and suggestions for good makeaheads. I have a habit of standing at the stove all night and really need to make sure that doesn't happen this time. No particular theme, so I could be making anything from chorizo coins in cider, to pimento cheese, to tandoori shrimp skewers. Whatcha got?

How about Tender White Cake? Or you could try the cake part of the recipe for Lemon Berry Crunch Cake that David published as a riff on what can be found in the “Momofuku Milk Bar” cookbook.

Speaking of David, here's his recipe for Pimento Cheese.

Pimento Cheese

And we just ran this Lightened-Up Pimento Cheese as well.

Lightened-Up Pimento Cheese

For make-ahead mains, I'd recommend checking out some of the casseroles we recently shared from Patricia Jinich.

Chicken and Tortilla Aztec Casserole (Cazuela Azteca)

I can attest to that brown butter yellow cake recipe for Momofuku. I have made that my default yellow cake recipe. Also, this deviled eggy crab spread of mine is always a crowd-pleaser.

I'd like to bring summer rolls (the cold ones in rice paper wrappers) to a social gathering. How long can they wait and still be good? We have to go to church first. Thanks!

Hm, how long is that church service? We've run several recipes that say, "Serve immediately or cover the rolls with a damp cloth for no more than an hour before serving."

I picked 4 bags of apples with my kids at Homestead Farms, and now I'm wanting to know how to use them, and how quickly do they need to be used. What is the best way to keep some of them until I get around to all of them? Should they be stored in a bag? in the fridge? fed to a hag, under a bridge? sorry, got a little dr. suess there.

Indeed, apples are best stored in the fridge. Use a bag with holes cut in it so they can still breathe. As for using them, I have to admit that I typically save honeycrisp for eating out of hand, or perhaps including on salads or in sandwiches (such as David's Smoked Salmon and Trout Panini or my Grilled Kimcheese, in place of the Asian pear). But those aren't exactly kid-friendly recipes, are they? You can certainly applesauce the heck out of them, or you could take a cue from our good friends over at The Bitten Word and make these gorgeous-looking Slow-Baked Honeycrisps. 

I don't live on the east coast, the middle coast (hahaha Upper Midwest) the lump crab pasteurized in the cans in the "fresh" fish cases at the club markets, the same as the lump blue crab I get in Maryland? The labeling isn't always clear as to the sourcing of the blue crab in the can.

Funny you should ask, we here in the Food section recently conducted a taste test on fresh vs. canned/ pasteurized crab meat. The results, while predictable, illuminated the vast differences between the products.


Here's the taste test and here is the story with some tips on how to ID the good stuff.

Joe's article today jogged forth a question I'd been meaning to ask for a while. Probably more appropriate to a gardening forum, but since you live on a farm maybe you can help. OK, so we are buying a house with a yard, and I have my heart set on planting a peach tree. Assuming my best gardening skills and all the right conditions, about how long will it be before the tree I plant will fruit? (Not necessarily prolifically, just enough to be able to say I ate a peach from my yard.)

It varies based on a lot of things, but best-case scenario? Two years... So get planting!

I suppose I could just ask why this product exists at all but that won't help me get rid of it. Someone brought a six pack into my house and drank (or at least openned and discarded) one bottle, leaving me with 5 bottles! Any ideas what I can do with the stuff? Drinking it is out of the question.

Maybe cook it down? Wonder if it'd turn into a gastrique-y thing.

The newest version (Safari 6) can do funny stuff on some websites under Mountain Lion especially.

Botulism, not botchulism. Or was that a joke, as in botched canning?

Good catch.

I know the leftover Tex-Mex people didn't say they have leftover fajitas, but, given the similar question on ratatouille, I just wanted to throw in that fajita leftovers make awesome omelet filler.


I'm getting hungry for fajitas!

in Silver Spring has really good rotisserie chicken most of the time. Dry once in a long while.

I have found at least five recipes, and only 1 out of 5 says I don't have to remove the tomato skin, which is a pain. I am using plum tomatoes, dried herbs, onion, garlic and green & red peppers. Should I or should I not skin the tomatoes? Pressure cooker canner...quart jars. Thanks!!!

I say remove. But use Cathy Barrow's great, simplified method: Cut up the tomatoes, cook them a little, then put them through a food mill, and the skin and seeds (but not all that great juice and pulp) will be left behind.

In Maine you can get a "black & blue" instead of a black & tan. Do the pousse-cafe thing with Guinness and the blueberry beer. Delish.

I'd love to get on that volunteer list!

send an email to; we can send you guidelines and see whether it'll work!

I think the ice water was originally used to help keep the crab cold. I just throw a few cubes in with the vinegar, oil, onion, salt, pepper and crab. I may try the grapeseed oil and parsley, I sometimes use red onion. But I would be tossed out of the state if I added the pimento!

Is there a Boston Market near you? If so, you can order online for pickup. Highest priced whole chicken (all white meat) is $9.99.

I don't see it in the recipe -- I'm guessing 8 or 9 inch square?

Good catch -- and great guess! I just went back through our archives. The whole first paragraph is missing. It says:

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan.

Will add it to the online version now!

I had my first oyster po'boy at Lulu's, never liked oysters before, have loved 'em ever since. I don't recall any biscuits, tho ...

What exactly is stone fruit and why is it called that?

From Food Lover's Companion: "Any thin-skinned fruit with  a succulent, soft flesh and hard stone or seed in the middle." Also called drupe fruit. Think cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums.

Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Eaters should look into that.

Lobsters are super cheap here in New England this year. $4.99/lb for chicken lobsters! I bought some last week and used the shells to make a stock for risotto. The dish fell flat. Suggestions? Stock was all lobster shells (legs, claws, tails) and no bodies, with onion, salt, pepper and a light touch of dried spices. Simmered for about an hour, then strained through fine mesh. Made the risotto using the stock but also some white wine and lemon juice; added parmesan and lobster at the end. "Meh." The remaining lobster meat is in the fridge and the top-sliced hot dog buns are on the counter, for the old standby instead of making this again. I tossed out the unused stock.

Hard to tell since I wasn't there, but when I've made it (years ago) I seared/browned the shells first, then used wine and water as the liquid, plus a little tomato paste. I think there was also celery and carrots in the mix. This might have been a Julia Child recipe, but I'm not sure. Try adding more flavor elements next time. I take it there WILL be a next time, if lobsters are so cheap there.

My first reaction was: "I thought Joe was single." Alas, I don't think punctuation would have helped this one..

Thanks for that link. I'll give it a try. I think you also had a specific one just for dill, but don't bother looking, this should do the trick. Much obliged.

Noble effort chatters, to pick things up on the back end of the session.  Thanks to Joe, David and Jim for helping out today, and for some great recipes and cooking ideas, as usual.

Cookbook winners: The "Lobstah" chatter gets the "Lobster!" book; the chatter who asked about plum trees gets "Plum Gorgeous."

Send your mailing info to and Becky will get those books right out to you. Next week, lots of canning and preserving. It's about time, right? I'll be away, thinking fondly of you all. Till, then, happy cooking and eating!

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, the Process columnist David Hagedorn, Cooking for One columnist Joe Yonan and Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin.
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