Free Range on Food: The food of Appalachia, long-cooked vegetables, bees and more.

Aug 31, 2016

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

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat! Hope you're enjoying our coverage this week, including Tamar Haspel's deep dive into the bee wars; Jane Black's review of Ronni Lundi's great new book about Appalachia, "Victuals"; Emily Horton's plea to keep on cooking those summer vegetables beyond crisp-tender; Jim Shahin's spotlight of a Virginia man who is working to get the state's barbecue its due; and more.

We'll have Tamar, Jim, and Carrie "Spirits" Allan joining us today -- plus our VIP guest, Ronni Lundy herself. She's got a wealth of knowledge about all manner of cooking, Southern and Appalachian being her specialty. To entice you to think along those lines, we'll have a SIGNED copy of her great book "Victuals" as a giveaway for our favorite question on that topic today. 

Now, for you Post Points members, here's today's code for extra credit: FR7106 . Remember, you'll record and enter it into the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

OK, let's do this!

Perhaps it was the smell of the barely warmed canned stuff from the school cafeteria? Mom didn't do cooked green vegetables except for the very few weeks a year when she considered asparagus affordable. So what are they supposed to taste like? The ones with the actual beans inside them. And if they can only be found in Appalachia, how close to West Virginia do I have to get to find them. I'm willing to try again. And do you cook and eat the whole thing? Or do you have to take out the beans?

I think it's pretty common for folks who've only had canned beans to not understand the appeal! Mountain green beans have a really deep umami--the protein richness of the bean saturated with the bacon seasoning, and then a hint of fresh "greenness." Different types of green beans have different aromas and flavors, once you get into them. A good way to test drive before you really drive to West Virginia is to look at the grocery or farmers market for some full Roma or Italian beans. They often have a good-sized bean in them. They should cook up in a little less time than the recipe we published, but they will give you an idea if this is a flavor worth traveling for. You absolutely cook and eat the whole bean--minus the pointed ends and any strings that run like a zipper down each side! Also look at your farm market to see if anyone is growing an old fashioned pole bean with beans. Lots of Appalachian rooted people in D.C. and I bet you can find some there! If you get really committed, you can order seed from Bill Best at heirlooms.org

ARTICLE: "Victuals," reviewed: A love letter to Appalachia, with recipes

I'm serving a vegetarian lasagna for a dinner party this weekend (made with roasted zucchini), and I always struggle with what to serve as appetizers and side dishses. It's not a particularly heavy lasagna and only uses about 8 oz of ricotta. But I want to pair this with something that won't overload our guests. I'm a vegetarian, and I'm doing the cooking, so no meat, please. Thanks, and love these chats.

First thing I thought of: Salad, of course.

Then maybe something lighter and acidic as well?

Grilled Antipasti

RECIPE: Grilled Antipasti

Summer Tomato Panzanella

RECIPE: Summer Tomato Panzanella

Basil-Oregano White and Black Bean Salad

RECIPE: Basil-Oregano White and Black Bean Salad

Minted Green Bean Salad

RECIPE: Minted Green Bean Salad

Last week someone lamented that the expensive blueberries were not sweet. Do not despair. Simmer them in a saucepan and sweeten to taste. For additional flavor, add fruit liqueur, lemon or a pinch of cinnamon. Cool overnight in the refrigerator. Layer the blueberries in a container alternately with layers of vanilla ice cream and call it Blueberry Ripple. Those blueberries also would make a nice chutney (great on chicken or roast beef sandwiches) or BBQ sauce (in Yankee Magazine). If you don't like the chutney or BBQ sauce, process in small jars and give away for holiday gifts. Jeez, don't throw away the precious berries! It's all good.

YES.

I loved Jane Black's article about Ronni Lundy's book, especially the first paragraph. I remember Kentucky Wonder beans, which were meaty and tasty and also had beans in them. (They also had strings that had to be removed, otherwise it was like chewing on dental floss.) The last time I saw them in a store was about 25 years ago in a Shoppers Food Warehouse. I'd like to cook those again. Related to this, I also enjoyed Emily Horton's article about sauteing vegetables. They lose some structural integrity that way, but they gain a lot in flavor and I prefer vegetables that are a little more done than many folks like to prepare them nowadays. Anyway, all three of here recipes look very tempting and I'll have to try them out. That method of cooking also works for more winter-type vegetables like butternut squash and Brussels sprouts.

I love the idea of winning folks back to The Real Bean Revolution! I bet if we start asking in the grocery for "beans with beans" they'll even start to stock them! In the meantime, pole beans are a great thing to grow yourself, or to talk to your favorite farm market or CSA grower about planting for you. And interestingly enough, when you're cooking a good ole string bean (strings removed, yes!) with beans in it, you need to cook it a good long time until the bean is tender to access the protein, as well as the flavor!

 

My husband really wants me to make cookies-- oatmeal cookies to be specific. The problem is that they have to be vegan and gluten free due to my son's allergies. I have been baffled at how to make a decently tasting baked good without butter and eggs. Any suggestions?

I don't think they'd be all that hard to make g/f and vegan. Look for certified gluten-free oats (oats are naturally gluten-free, but if your son is particularly sensitive you'll want to make sure they weren't processed in a facility that also processes wheat or other gluten-full ingredients). Use vegetable shortening instead of butter. And sub in a g/f flour mix for the relatively small amount of flour; I like King Arthur's mix. I think you could start with the Clinton family recipe -- aka Hillary's recipe -- that Maura featured in her recent piece about the first lady cookie contest and leave out the chocolate chips if you'd like, or seek out vegan ones. (Pay no attention to those dozens of negative ratings -- we are sure that one and Melania Trump's cookie were subject to Trump-ian influences by raters who didn't make them.)

RECIPE: Clinton Family's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Not a question, just a thank you for your salsa negra recipe! This weekend I marinated some short ribs in it for a day. Then braised them in my slow cooker and shredded the meat for tacos. Added a little more salsa on it and it was heavenly!

That salsa is good, isn't it? 

Spicy Chipotle Eggplant With Black Beans

RECIPE: Spicy Chipotle Eggplant With Black Beans

It's killer!

I had a great blueberry ginger soda at a restaurant that I would love to replicate. How do I muddle fruit? Would I use ginger ale for the ginger and soda or real ginger with seltzer?

To the first question -- for something like this, I'd do blueberries at the bottom of your glass, muddle them (squish them up a bit so the juices come out) with a muddler, which you can either buy if you think you'll be muddling up a storm, or substitute the end of a small rolling pin, fat wooden spoon, or basically any clean thing that lets you smush things up well at the bottom of the glass! Then I'd top with ice and add the soda. Re: that soda, there are some nice ginger ales out there. I like Gosling's, Q, Blenheim, Bruce Cost -- but they vary in terms of gingeriness. There are also some Jamaican ginger sodas that are pretty zesty. You can certainly try making your own, though!

Do you have any recipes for the sauces mentioned in the article?

      I don't, but there are some in Joe Haynes's book, "Virginia Barbecue: A History," which is due out in September. 

SMOKE SIGNALS: Where did barbecue begin? Virginia, he says.

Interesting article on bees by Tamar. I also read this article in the WaPo today as well which had this to say about bee health: "The types of agricultural land typically thought to be best for pollinators are the type often cultivated in conjunction with cattle farming, such as clover and alfalfa fields, he said. "  So it seems one very easy way people can change their diet to improve bee health and to reduce runoff to bodies of water such as the Chesapeake Bay is by eating more beef. The polycultures on which cattle are raised are environmentally friendly.

Ah, yes, it's the age-old question of trade-offs.  A wide range of pollen-bearing plants is indeed good for bees.  But, of course, cattle are a problem because of the methane they produce.  (Which can be partially offset by the carbon sequestered in the pastures they graze, of course.)  The interdependence of humans, animals, crops, and pollinators is complicated, and there's no one optimal solution.  Which I guess is good for me, since after I wrote about that one optimal solution, I'd be out of a job.

UNEARTHED: In a fight between environmentalists and farmers, the bees lose. And that stings.

I've been buying tea at Starbucks for a while now, and am troubled about something other than the price: Should I be concerned that the chain puts a sachet of tea into a tall tea cup? For those that don't know, the Starbucks tall size is the equivalent of everyone else's small. It's maybe 10 oz? When I brew a cup of tea at home, I use a tea BAG. Sachets are reserved for a 2-cup pot. That means I'm getting a lot more caffeine in a Starbucks cup of tea than I am at home. This is, for most of us, not a huge shock. We know Starbucks drip coffee has a lot more caffeine than home brew. It's part of what gets us hooked on the stuff, and it keeps us coming back, for better or worse. But as someone who's been trying to make the switch from mostly coffee to mostly tea, I worry that Starbucks has skewed my expectations for how strong a cup of tea should be. I'd be curious to hear from experienced tea drinkers about whether such matters or merely a preference, or if there's an official Right and Wrong of tea-making that Starbucks is flagrantly violating.

Hm. A thinker, this one. I am a tea drinker, although I have been converted to tea leaves rather than bags or sachets and I'm never going back. (I love this nifty pot I got from Harney and Sons, and Teaism sells all kinds of handy things for brewing tea on the go or at your desk.) I suppose based on your calculations, you could be getting too much tea for the amount of water? It's just hard to say. How does it taste? Too bitter?

I'm also going to point you to Bonnie's story on tea. It might further inspire you to go the loose-leaf route.

ARTICLE: Tea might become your favorite hot beverage, if you ditch the little bags

My neighbors, who have chickens, delivered two dozen to us yesterday. You know, the day after I bought 1.5 dozen at the store. So now I have more than three dozen eggs! How should I use them? Thanks!

Eggs will keep a good long time in the refrigerator, and you use them differently depending on their age. You test to see what you're dealing with by filling a deep bowl or pot with plenty of water. Lay the eggs on their sides the bottom. The ones that continue to lie prone are very fresh. The ones that tip to stand on their noses are older. Any that float are too old and should be discarded.

Egg evaluation done, use young eggs in recipes that have you crack a raw egg. In Victuals, One-Eyed Jacks, the recipe for ham and eggs and ramps, but since this isn't ramp season, make it with green onion and a bit of garlic. One insanely delicious recipe is the Buttermilk Brown Sugar Pie, and any kind of custard pie or cake is good. I like to throw a handful each of different fresh garden vegetables, chopped, in a skillet with a little bacon and grease and then pour about half dozen or more eggs over that (2-3 eggs to a person).

When the eggs are older, that's when you hard boil and peel them to make egg salad, or at least a dozen of the marvelous Red Bud Caper Deviled Eggs. Older eggs shrink away from the shell enough that they are easy to peel. Super fresh eggs only crack in tiny pieces and will drive you crazy.

Jim Shahin: I have a friend who is a prolific jam and preserve maker. I like to grill and smoke. Got any specific pairings you'd suggest for sauces/marinades so we can combine our efforts?

       I say mix and match at will. But I will say that I've found that habanero-peach sauce goes well with smoked pork shoulder, apple salsa with pork chops, orange marinade with pork loin, blackberry bbq sauce with duck, and fig or apricot sauce with lamb.

Howdy! My sister's Marine fiance just got stationed here and he loves non-fancy Middle Eastern food (think shawarma). Could you please recommend several of your best Cheap Eats places for him to try? He lives in National Harbor, but if your best aren't super-close, that's ok. Thank you!

Alas, Tim Carman, our $20 Diner is traveling, but here is at least one from the archives.

ARTICLE: Aden Pizza fires up its namesake dish alongside fresh-baked delights from Turkey

Me Jana in Arlington is a strong contender. Lebanese Taverna and Amsterdam Falafel are respectable area stalwarts, and newcomer fast-casuals SKWR and Shouk are doing good things, too (the later is vegan, BTW). Shawafel might be another option.

Other favorites, guys?

Usually a paper towel works, but recently ground fennel seeds, and can't seem to get the smell out. Any suggestions - does grinding white rice help?

Yep, grinding white rice helps a lot. Use about 1/4 cup, and grind until it's powdery. Dump it out, then wipe clean with a paper towel. Repeat as needed.

Do you know? Just curious. :)

(In Dr. Evil's voice:) 1 MEEEEELLLLLION.

I have to run out and get VIctuals. Loved the article-read it over my lunch of half runners and pickled beets. I started growing my own half runners because I could not find them around here. My family is from Appalachia and I loved my mom's cooking. The problem has been making healthy veggies. We kept a jar of bacon grease for everything and I grew up thinking Velveeta cheese was a condiment. Thank you for bringing up wonderful memories.

Thank you for the great words! And while I advocate firmly long slow cooking for those green beans, a lot of fresh vegetables were just lightly sauteed in a bit of bacon grease with salt and pepper to taste. Don't get better than that!

I was going to make a drink last night, some martini variant, and it suggested that I use Key LImes. Well I didn't have key limes. Did I miss anything by using regular limes? (was still good)

You missed using Key limes. Whether that made a huge difference in your enjoyment of the drink I can't say, but here's a good run-down of the difference. The tedious squeezing process/accessibility for those tiny little suckers usually deter me from using them often, but they do taste different. You can often find real key limes at some of the Latino markets in the area if you want to test out which variety you prefer, but to me, the more critical thing is the  juice's freshness. (If you have to choose between bottled Key lime juice and fresh Persian lime juice, go Persian every time.)

I went to Jaleo and they offered a margarita with salt foam on top! How can I make this? It was like sea foam, only sea foam that's potable! I asked if it was made with egg white and they said no, sugar water.

I think the secret ingredient on non-egg-white foams is typically Sucro or soy lecithin. My understanding is Sucro is more expensive. But here are two variations of a salt foam topping (I will say I haven't tested these, so can't vouch for them.)

4 oz water, 2 oz fresh lime juice, 1 1/2 tsp Sucro, 1 1/2 tsp salt

OR

1/2 cup lime juice, 1 cup water, 1/2 TB salt, 1/4 tsp soy lecithin

With either version, most recipes seem to recommend using an immersion blender to whip it into a foam, but here's a (terrifyingly enthusiastic) bartender demonstrating the technique using basic bar tools. 

(I may have to write about this at some point! Seems like a technique that could have multiple uses.)

 

I'd bet a whipping siphon is also often used.

Hi all. I am always confused about using wood chips on the grill. Should I soak them before using or not? Does it make a difference in taste?

    A more complicated question than you might think. This one gets argued by bbq folk a lot. Some say that chips have such small surface area that soaking them serves no purpose because as soon as they hit the fire they lose whatever moisture they may have had. They'll add that they create steam and reduce the temp, to boot. Others maintain that soaking does absorb into the chips, thus extending their smoking life, and that the reduction in temperature is minimal and the temp returns to what it was in short order. 

       Some argue that not smoking the chips mean they will burn quicker, or even just burn up. 

       Writers and cooks who I respect have differing opinions. Steven Raichlen nearly always recommends soaking the chips. Meathead Goldwyn recommends against it. 

        I generally don't soak, especially if my fire is relatively low. But, whether out of habit or because I believe it helps (and believe is the key word because I have not tested this myself), I will also soak, especially on a hotter fire. 

        I have not found that soaking (or not soaking) makes a difference in taste.

I grew up in a family where vegetables were steamed or quickly zapped in the microwave to preserve nutrients, and considered this normal until I moved to the South. At my first pot luck, I watched in amazement as a pot of green beans with bacon and probably fat back, simmered for hours. I suspected not a vitamin survived, but wow, were they ever melt-in-your-mouth delicious!

That's a common assumption, but in fact, we don't have full nutritional information on the benefits of long, slow simmering of vegetables. We do know that in the case of green beans it makes the protein in the bean more accessible and digestible, as well as full of umami! Not all nutrients--vitamins, minerals--are as fragile or destructible as we once thought. And some are enhanced by cooking: Have you seen those high lycopene tomatoes sold in many groceries? You won't get the benefit of the lycopene they contain unless you cook them! I don't want to make any false nutritional claims I can't back up, but we are learning that the ancient wisdoms of traditional cooking (nixtamalizing corn to access its full nutritional value, as Native American people did) are often smarter than what we assume. I say enjoy every bite!

Agreed! Emily Horton addressed this in her piece thusly:

“If the cooking water is to be consumed as a part of the dish . . . then overall nutrient retention will be high, regardless of temperature (usually simmering) or time,” Robert Parker, professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University, told me in an email. So use as little liquid as possible, and serve the vegetables with their concentrated juices. The heat should be low to moderate, the liquid barely enough to burble around the vegetables’ contours. If your vegetables are juicy enough to start, you may not need liquid at all.

ARTICLE: My favorite way to cook summer vegetables: Until they're falling apart. And then some.

Howdy! I made a pretty awesome hot sauce over the weekend by smoking assorted peppers (cayenne, jalapeno, etc.) with half an onion and garlic cloves, and pureeing the smoked peppers with a glug of white vinegar and a little salt. The finished product is similar to an Asian chili garlic sauce. It will take some time to go through that volume of sauce. It is currently living in a sealed mason jar in the fridge. How long will it last before poisoning the family? Thanks!

*obligatory disclaimer that I'm not a food safety professional and to always use your best judgement/check for signs of spoilage before consuming*

I've kept homemade hot sauce in sterilized jars for -- dare I admit -- years. (I'm sure it also depends on your ingredients and amount/balance of salt, vinegar or other preservatives.)

If you're too concerned about it, I'd try freezing some.

Can't wait to get your book, but where to find the fat beans and sorghum in the DC areas?

You may have to wait a season on those beans, as the best way to get them is to grow and heirloom yourself, or convince you CSA or farm market farmer to grow a mess for you. Bill Best's heirlooms.org is a good source for bean seed, and he may ship fresh beans. I know he sells dried shuck beans by mail. You can also order sorghum syrup from some mail order sources. A good way to find out if someone is producing it near you, or who sells it by mail, is to check out the website for the National Sweet Sorghum Syrup Producers and Processors online. And whenever you drive out in the country, don't hesitate to pull over at a farm stand to see what they have! I'll let my colleagues in the D.C. area fill in the places they suspect might be good sources.

As far as sorghum goes, I saw it at Mom's in Del Ray this past weekend. I believe it was $5.99, but don't quote me on that.

Ronni, what seasonings would you associate with traditional Appalachian cooking? I often jazz up an ordinary dish for the family by using regional flavors. Thanks for being on the chat!

The use of bacon fat and lard in traditional Appalachian cooking gives a distinct umami flavor to anything it's added to, and a very little bit goes a very long way. When I'm cooking for vegetarian/vegan friends, I mix mild or sweet Smoked Spanish Paprika with the salt to create what I like to call "eau de bacon."

Black pepper--fresh, sharp, bright--is characteristic of Appalachian dishes, and a seasoning we've drifted too far from in search of novelty. I enjoyed having it brought back into my palate while writing this book.

Ginger and cinnamon were spices used sparingly, and both work really well in baked goods that use sorghum syrup as a primary sweetening. That syrup is a flavor of itself. And one thing that's overlooked is that the processes of curing (ham/bacon), fermenting (kraut, corn, green beans, relish), and drying (shuck beans, apples, peaches, squash) all intensify and somewhat change the tastes of the original food to "season" it before it gets to the pan or plate.

Hey Jim, did you get a ticket from that cop who pulled you over or did you get away with a warning and BBQ rec? ;)

       Got a ticket. Pretty bummed about it, too. 

Joe, I follow you on Facebook, therefore, when I saw the Persian Zucchini Frittata recipe on Monday evening, I printed it and prepared it on Tuesday for brunch. However, I used Red Rice instead of Brown Rice and I Red Rice is my preference. The Frittata was soo good!! I highly recommend it to chatters. I purchased the Red Rice at an International Grocery Store. I was unable to find an expiration date. How long does Red Rice last? Additionally, Ellie's recipe for Prosecco-Spiked Melon With Basil is exceptionally good as well. I've made it twice already. Thanks for satisfying my palate .

Glad you liked it! Honestly, it was one of my favorite recipes in recent memory. I can totally imagine how good it would be with red rice; thanks for that! As for how long it lasts, since it was the bran intact, it'll have a shorter shelf life than white rice, so if you intend on having it around longer than a month or two, I'd store it in the freezer.

RECIPE: Persian Zucchini Frittata

I only had a chance to skim Mr. Shahin's story on Virginia BBQ today but it looked like he was in some real rural areas. In otherwords, way below the beltway. Any local people up here doing VA, or is VA still trying to figure out what it is?

      I asked Joe Haynes for his recommendations and, for northern Virginia, he gave me Taste O south in Ashbury and King Street Blues in Alexandria and Arlington. 

Thank you for taking my question about the abundance of star fruit we have (and they keep coming). We made star fruit pickles! They should be ready to try this evening, so I'll let you know.

Ronni, thank you for being here to chat with us. I really appreciated learning more about Appalachia. My impression based on the article and the published recipes is that the food is more traditional and isn't the healthiest type of cooking. Obviously, all things should be in moderation, but I'm curious, is the food heavier and do you have people asking for lighter versions of recipes? Not trying to be critical - just genuinely curious about this type of cuisine.

Well, it depends. For instance, a hearty winter meal in Appalachia was often a bowl of pinto beans cooked to not only tenderness, but "digestibleness" and seasoned with a small amount of fatty pork, served with a skillet of cornbread and jars of homemade relish and pickles and a raw green onion. Pretty nutritional when you think about fiber and usable proteins, and when you consider that the pickle was as apt to be fermented as put up with sugar, a luxury. I'd hold an apple stack cake, or even a quick fried dried apple pie up to any sweet and expect to come out the winner on the nutrition front. That said, of course there are dishes such as fried chicken, country ham and gravy that we'd be foolish to eat every day as our forebears did. You have to recall that doing the work most mountain people did on their land, 3,000-4,000 calories a day was normal. But it was also normal in the summertime to sit down to supper without a bit of meat on the table, but in the pot to season the beans, and eat fresh vegetables, often raw--sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, pepper, and radish in season--with cornbread for a meal. I honestly don't think Appalachian cooking is inherently unhealthy if we eat, as you say, in moderation and i would say, across the full larder available.

So is it fair to say that Virginia is making up or cherry picking history as it goes along? I got all the historical references, and saw that they "don't have an identity." Can there ever be "authentic" VA barbque?

      Read Joe Haynes's book and you decide. 

Hah. I see you haven't asked a grocery to stock something for quite a few years now. We can't even get them to start re-stocking things that we always bought a lot of but that the powers that be at corporate headquarters has decided not to carry any more.

Ah, yes. Perhaps I was being a little too hopeful. But I do believe if you talk to enough farm market farmers you'll find someone who will grow some real beans for you. 

Tea strength, IMHO, varies much more according to people's taste than coffee strength does. I've rarely met two tea-drinkers who steeped the same amount of tea the same amount of time. Just keep experimenting with amounts and timing until you get what you like. And what you like isn't likely to be Starbucks tea, by the way.

Truth!

Sounds wonderful for us fish lovers, but driving to Annapolis might be tough for some of us - any readers interested in teaming up for good fish?

Indeed. When I talked to representatives at the company, they said they hoped to expand in the future.

(FWIW, they also hope to sell at the Dupont farmers market in the near future.)

ARTICLE: Shopping Cart: Old Line Fish Company’s community-supported fishery program

The family run Middle Eastern Cuisine in Takoma Park is great for cheap and cheerful.

Thanks!

You have to go with what a guy named Meathead says about bbq chips every time.

        Hard to argue with that. 

Jim, I bought come Colonel Bacon BBQ sauce when I visited the BBQ Exchange. How long do you suppose that stuff is good? I assume that most sauces last indefinitely (yes? I just unearthed a vinegar-based one in my fridge that's been there a while!), but since this one includes bacon grease, I wonder if it turns.

        Jeez, I don't know and you're asking the wrong guy. Like you, I keep sauces forever. I have some that are literally over 5 years old and every now and again I still use 'em. So, I am probably breaking every health rule in the book, but there ya go. 

        I would recommend calling the BBQ Exchange and seeing what they say: (540) 832-0227.

Check out the Van Dorn Plaza shopping center at VD and Edsall. Also the neighborhood has multiple Ethiopian places, as a bonus, and then the Mediterranean Bakery is around the corner in the Pickett shopping center.

Yeah, my fam would call me crazy, but I'd really like to get into beekeeping. Can you please provide some good reference materials to get started?

I think the best way to get into beekeeping is to find your local club.  Lots of places have programs to get new beekeepers started, and it helps a lot to be tied in to local support.  It's hard to learn to read a beehive, and there's no substitute for having someone with experience show you what to look for.  Also, read scientificbeekeeping.com!  And good luck.

If you're not putting anything in them like vegan chocolate chips or raisins, I like adding a little maple syrup to the batter. Or subbing in some coconut oil with the vegetable shortening/vegan butter.

Ugh. Suggest he bake his own cookies if he wants them. And then he can re-read the article about the Presidental Cookie Contest to see why the expectation that "wives bake cookies!" is out of date and sexist.

I love beans but my husband is indifferent. However, he LOVES basil so this recipe might work. Can I use canned beans?

Sure. A can of each. Try to get no-salt-added.

Why does this happen? I buy peaches or nectarines that are hard as rocks when I get them (WF's and Giant) and by two or three days later, they're wrinkled and getting rotten spots on them. They're just on my counter, and no sun hitting them. Is there some technique to ageing peaches I'm not aware of?

I, too, have found peaches can quickly ripen on the counter. I think the technique is to check them often, twice a day at least.

And once they're ripe, you can refrigerate them.

I keep whole grain flours in the freezer to keep them fresh, but how long can they keep? I have whole wheat pastry flour that's (I'm embarrassed to say) almost 2 years past it's best by date. I taste it before I use it and so far, it tastes fine, both raw and in the baked goods. Have I lost my taste buds or is my flour fine? Thanks.

It's probably fine. As long as the results taste good, I wouldn't worry too much.

While I still love the taste and tang of hot sauce, my digestive system of late has been letting me know I should stop eating it. Is there a way you can think of for me to still get the flavor, without whatever it is that my stomach can't handle?

Try a very mild sauce to start, and see how that sits with you. 

Unless you're really really sensitive to caffeine, tea strength isn't going to be a big problem. That canard about tea having more caffeine than coffee does not take into account the extraction method, which is far more efficient for coffee than for tea. Just sayin.

Thanks for weighing in.

I'd agree, as someone who has had a major coffee addiction and tries from time to time to switch to tea. For whatever reason, the caffeine in tea doesn't have NEARLY the same effect, even when I supposedly drink enough to equal what I was getting in coffee.

I, too, had fennel smell that was hard to eradicate. After I ground white rice a couple of times, I packed the grinder with newspaper, closed it and let it sit for a week. et voila, no more smell.

Are these only grown in Kentucky? I ask because I live in South Texas and have been exclusively buying vegetables from farmer's markets for about three years now I haven't seen them since I stopped using grocery-store produce. I love the shape, texture and shape of Kentucky wonders better than green beans.

Kentucky Wonders can be grown in any temperate climate, although there are folks who will tell you (me among them) that terroir not only has an impact on the shape of green beans, but will cause the bean to adapt and mutate to a somewhat different bean over time. Commercial seed for a lot of old varieties such as half-runners and Kentucky Wonder are being bred these days so that they can be more easily harvested, more shelf-stable, more uniform, picked sooner (less bean) etc. so if you can find someone growing heirloom string/green beans in your area, those might please you just as well. Or if you want to grown your own, I'd recommend buying from an heirloom seed source. I've mentioned Bill Best's heirlooms.org already, but there are others if you google "heirloom beans."

So I guess my husband is sexist because he asks me to bake cookies (and cakes)? How about I'm the baker in the family. He's a great cook, but not so much in the baking dept.

I, someone who rarely drinks alcohol, find myself with a bottle of pretty good rum. This punch seems like a delicious way not to waste it. My question is about the white tea. Do you think it specifies white tea, which I've never heard of, to keep the pretty colors of the fruit? Or is there a distinctive flavor? I'd rather not purchase white tea, if I can even find it, because I'm not much of a tea drinker either, but I don't know whether something else can be safely subbed. Thank you!

There are differences -- white teas are less oxidized and lower in caffeine than black teas -- but they may not make much of a difference in a punch like this, one that has a lot of other flavors (this does look delicious). I think you could probably go with a green tea here and be perfectly happy with the results. It kind of depends on how snooty you want to go -- there are some peach-infused teas available at the supermarket that might play just as well here, but if you do want to investigate the white tea angle, Teaism and Capital Teas would probably have some really nice (though pricier) options.

I grew up in West Virginia, and I think one of things that makes the food so great is just about everyone has a garden - it may just be a few tomato plants, but maybe corn or beans or cucumbers or all of the above and then some. So we cook with the things we grow, meaning we eat them at their freshest (or can them to have all winter long).

Or dry or ferment them. And, yeah, buddy! Part of the deal with Appalachian cooking is that it's relatively light on sauces and spices because the taste of home grown produce is so distinctive already. I wrote about driving through even the most industrial parts of West Virginia and seeing people's gardens sloping up the hills in between the power and chemical plants. We love our gardens and in an Appalachian family, it's not unusual for different family members to each have a garden patch of her/his own.

Thank you all so much for all of your recommendations! He will be thrilled to try all of these places!

My mother was from southwest Virginia, and loved cornbread and buttermilk. She said that as a child, she often brought cornbread and buttermilk for lunch when she walked to school. Only unsweetened cornbread would do, though. To this day, I feel like my mother would come out of her grave and smack me upside the head if I put sugar in my cornbread. :-) Never cared for soggy cornbread myself, but the soup looks interesting.

John Fleer's Cornbread and Buttermilk Soup is definitely a riff on that old tradition of eating leftover cornbread crumbled in a glass with buttermilk or sweet milk poured over it. I bet you will  like it (I do!) and yes, indeed, no sugar, no flour. Never!

 

One of the criticisms about the way some people cook is that they overcook their beans. But this is only a problem because of the new way green beans are harvested and sold. In our urban apartment, we planted pole beans by hanging strings off of the gutter nails. The pole beans grew up the strings to the gutter, giving us lots of bean filled green beans even in a very small place.

That is a great idea! I'm going to try it next summer. I bet I can trellis from my curtain rods, and then when the beans are harvested, I'll hang my shuck beans on strings to dry from them! Thanks.

Recently I made cornbread in my cast iron pan. While WaPo has the pan size, so many recipes don't. You can figure it out by comparing the quantities between recipes, but recipe writing folk - we need a pan size

Not all key limes are worth it--which explains my aversion to them. Serious Eats did a good piece on this.

Yes, which was also one of my reasons for recommending the local Latino markets. I often see them a little cheaper there (not to mention that the one near me often has 10 Persian limes for $2 compared to nearby Safeway's 1 for 79 cents!)

I think the last poster should lighten up. I am the baker in our house. I have more experience and I am good at it. My husband definitely makes all the best breakfast dishes. Everything else is 50-50. It doesn't have to be a sexist request to ask someone to bake for you.

Green beans should be cooked thoroughly--how do you get restaurants to stop steaming them? I still don't like pole beans although we would have them from time to time. Unfortunately the person I live with doesn't like fresh green beans, only canned.

Most restaurants think of green beans as a color on the plate, not a food, so they want them basically blanched and bright green. Some places embracing Appalachian food are starting to look for real beans and to cook them to doneness, but there are some reasons why you're not going to see this happening everywhere. A good green bean is 99% of the time going to be a bean with a string down each side, and so requires someone to string them. That's a high labor cost that many restaurants--already operating on tight margins--can't afford. But you can make your green beans as you like at home, and if your honey won't eat 'em, then more for you. Bless his heart.

How about a big pot of steamed Swiss chard (or other greens)?

Try to identify the common ingredient in the sauces that bother you. I've found I can't tolerate certain red peppers, but can eat green hot sauce all day no matter how hot.

I wrote in a couple weeks ago with concerns about the soggy bottom I always seem to get when I make Ann Marrotto's Fresh Tomato Pie. I'm happy to report that I made the pie again last night to much better results. The bottom was only a bit soggy, but not in a bad way. I'm not sure Mary Berry would be proud of it, but it sure was delicious! (I think the key for me was using a pastry cutter instead of my hands to mix the dough.) My question for you now is: Do you have any suggestions of what else I can make with that dough? It's just divine!

Thanks for reporting back!

Ann Marotto's Fresh Tomato Pie

RECIPE: Ann Marotto's Fresh Tomato Pie

I think the crust would go with just about anything, but my first thought is to go savory. 
The filling in these pies would be great enclosed in crust, no?
Spinach Pies
RECIPE: Spinach Pies
Or try this:
Onion Pie
RECIPE: Onion Pie
That said, I keep thinking blueberry pie would be excellent with a cottage cheese-based crust. 


It looks delicious and I'm intrigued by the cottage cheese crust, but I have a freezer stocked with my own homemade pie dough. Is the crust an integral part of what makes this pie special, or may I use my own without sabotaging the recipe? Thanks for taking my question.

The crust is nice, to be sure, but I'm always on board with using what you have. 

(And then when you run out of your pie dough, try it with the cottage cheese crust!)

Ann Marotto's Fresh Tomato Pie

RECIPE: Ann Marotto's Fresh Tomato Pie


The green bean thing is funny, as the recipe is almost identical to a Middle Eastern one I make often, where you simmer beans, garlic, and tomatoes (optional) in a ton of olive oil for hours and hours until they are creamy. You can do it with eggplant, too.

Yes! I love that recipe, too. And don't forget okra!

I used to simply remove the teabag from the cup when the tea was as dark as I wanted, then re-use it later. Isn't that an option for the Starbucks drinker?

Yup.

I like cold marinated Green Bean Salad to complement pasta: Steam the strung, snapped beans. Make vinaigrette of 3:1 oil: vinegar with a *little* minced raw garlic, and S&P to taste. Combine beans and dressing in a non-corrosive bowl, cover and let marinate several hours (or overnight).

Nice.

Now that it's time to go back to college, do you have any good vegetarian slow cooker recipes besides chilli? Looking for some one-bowl meals that include a protein and some veggies.

I have stopped buying grocery store peaches. They are picked while hard and tend to rot rather than ripen. So instead, I make a few weekend trips to the Blue Ridge Mountains during late July and August to buy peaches directly from orchards. My favorite is Williams' Orchard in Rappahannock county. The peaches are usually soft, yet they can last for a week or more on the counter without going bad, if I have not eaten them before then.

I don't know if it's new or if I just never noticed it before, but I love your rundown of food festivals in the region. Do you know of anything coming up soon that's in DC proper? Those listed for September are pretty far afield for this city dweller.

Thanks! We do post food-related events every Wednesday; the focus just depends on what events are out there. 

A few upcoming festivals in D.C. proper include the Uncorked Wine Festival at the Armory (Sept. 24) and D.C. VegFest at Yards Park (also Sept. 24)

And of course, it's almost Oktoberfest season. 

(Also the Going Out Guide is another great resource for all types of events.)

ARTICLE: Five festivals to check out in September

I quit buying peaches at Giant, etc. because they never ripened properly. I don't know if they're picked too green or what the problem is. Buy local peaches at your neighborhood farmers market!

Can't disagree with you there.

I once made the recipe for "Macrobiotic Oatmeal Cookies" from "Cooking with the Right Side of the Brain" and served them to a group of non-vegetarian, non-GF friends, and every one of them thought they were the best oatmeal cookies they ever had. Full disclosure: I added in a bag of Raisinets, which aren't vegan (even the dark chocolate ones) but I'm sure throwing in raisins and vegan chocolate chips would taste just the same. Unfortunately I'm at work so I don't have the recipe with me, and I haven't been able to bring it up by Googling.

Thanks!

Her recipe for Asian Peanut Noodle Salad sounds delish, and I'll be making it tonight - for sure.

She'll be thrilled to hear, I'm sure!

We also kept a jar of bacon grease for everything and I grew up thinking Velveeta cheese was ...not a condiment, but cheese.

Velveeta has its moments, although it was not part of my family's larder. Bacon grease, however, was/is a seasoning as well as a cooking medium, and I believe it's flavor is divine.

" ... she was allowed to help, whether by stringing beans on the porch or harvesting squash from the garden." What does "stringing beans" mean? I first pictured a green-bean wreath, but that seems unlikely ...

The green beans we favor in the mountains--and through much of the south--are usually pole beans and were always what were also called "string beans." That means the bean pot itself has a long string that runs down the ridge on either side, and that needed to be pulled off and discarded before you eat the bean. When I was growing up everyone knew what you meant when you said you needed to "string some beans," but as we have moved to mass, commercial agriculture, beans have been bred to lose those strings, among other things. There are photos in Victuals that show how to string a bean--you break the pointed end (into the curve) and pull down, then you break the stem end. Then you break the beans in pieces to cook them.

In Appalachia, we also made dried shuck beans (also called leather britches or fodder beans) for winter. In that case, you would string the beans, as I just described, but instead of breaking them, you would use a needle and long piece of thread to string them for hanging, much like making a chile ristra. It's confusing, so there's photos of that process in the book, too!

I have developed a sulfite allergy and can no longer use balsamic, red wine, or sherry vinegars. I can use rice and cider vinegar, but would like a suggestion for a substitution for the sweeter vinegars like balsamic, which I really miss.

Seems like you could experiment with adding back in some sweeteners with one of the vinegars you can use? Maybe honey or even molasses, depending on the situation. Orange juice could work in certain dishes as well. Really depends on what you want to make.

Store bought peaches are unfortunately refrigerated at too cold a temperature. Cooling retards the ripening ( not only peaches but other stone fruits as well) lengthening the shelf life, but if stored too cold prevents proper ripening. They go from rocks to rot. Too may pricey fruits tossed. Frowny face

:(

All of this talk about tea is reminding me of how my grandmother always made her tea. She would wait until one of us is done with a tea bag and then reused it - she liked very weak tea and didn't want to waste a tea bag on it!

I think a lot of us probably know sweet grandmas like this.

Is it really two entire 7 ounce cans of chitpotle peppers?

Yes.

When I read things like salmon patties, beans and cornbread, fresh tomatoes etc I don't know why that's considered unique to Appalachia. To me, it's sort of generic country food. My mother was from Oklahoma and my Dad from a farm in Missouri and I grew up eating these foods. It seems like normal food to me. Maybe you should come to Missouri and investigate our way of eating! :)

There definitely are aspects of Appalachian daily cooking that are also general farm cooking in other parts of the country. Although it's interesting to note that large numbers of the original Missouri and Oklahoma settlers moved their from the mountain south!

This discussion reminds me of my grandmother. She would dip her tea bag quickly into the hot water and then put it aside to use again later. There was no possible way that any flavor was infused into the water, but this was only way she would drink her "tea." Perhaps it came out of growing up during the Depression? I don't know, but discussions about tea strength always remind me of her. I am the opposite - I leave the bag in there even while I'm drinking, so it continues getting stronger.

Like I said!

YES. Do it. You won't be sorry!

Has anyone done a guesstimate of methane-producing animals in the U.S. pre-European contact vs now? I know we're down about 40 million buffalo, but way up on cows and, I've heard, deer. I would like to know how much to blame on the animals and how much to blame on my Honda.

Yes, people have done those estimates, although I don't have them to hand.  But what the US looked like pre-Columbus, or what the planet looked like pre-humans is largely irrelevant.  If we want to cut back on greenhouse gases, cutting back on ruminants is one strategy, regardless of how many buffalo used to roam. We have to deal with the planet -- and the the greenhouse gas producers -- we have now.

Late, I know, but if you need more ideas, I made a version of quiche Lorraine just today in a muffin tin. Six eggs, cup of milk, 3 slices of ham diced small, one leek sauteed in a TB butter, and about a cup of gruyere. Combine all ingredients and pour into a muffin tin (I used the standard 12 and 1/3 cup of the mixture in each was just perfect). Cook on 375 until solid. Came out AMAZING!

Lemon and honey?

Joe, are you growing okra this year? mine is gangbusters. Made okra-corn cakes last night. Mmmmm

I'm not -- although I'd love to. My SF is an okra-hater, and I'm already pushing it by growing eggplant, which he also hates, so I have resisted.

Works not only for steamed green beans, but also for broccoli, cauliflower, Swiss chard, artichoke hearts, mixed vegetables, etc.

Well, you've baked us until we're invitingly flecked with browned spots, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and many thanks to guests Jim, Carrie and Tamar -- and especially Ronni Lundy -- for helping with the a's!

Now for the cookbook winner. The chatter who wrote about memories of Kentucky Wonder beans from Shoppers Food Warehouse many years ago will get a SIGNED copy of Ronni's "Victuals." Send your information to kara.elder@washpost.com, and she'll arrange for you to get your book!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading! And ... happy Labor Day weekend!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tamar Haspel
Tamar Haspel, who farms oysters on Cape Cod and writes about food and science, is author of the monthly Unearthed column, winner of a James Beard Award.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Ronni Lundy
Ronni Lundy is the author of "Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, With Recipes," (Clarkson Potter, 2016).
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