Free Range on Food: Online cooking classes, DIY feta, the history of African American cooks and more

DIY Feta Cheese.
Sep 16, 2015

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! Here's hoping you are enjoying this week's coverage, from Becky's take on online cooking classes to Toni Tipton-Martin's fascinating piece on the legacy of black cooks, Cathy Barrow's DIY column on feta, and so much more.

Toni (author of "The Jemima Code") and Cathy (author of "Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry") are in the room to help answer questions today, along with Carrie "Spirits" Allan, POSSIBLY Jim "Smoke Signals" Shahin, and us regulars -- well, except for Bonnie, who's traveling!

As always, we'll have giveaway books for our favorite chatters today: a SIGNED copy of "The Jemima Code" from Toni, and "The Ultimate Mediterranean Diet Cookbook" by Amy Riolo.

Don't forget, RIGHT AFTER THIS CHAT, the great and powerful Dorie Greenspan will take questions on baking and more on her own chat! Go here to submit questions now!

Oh, and for you PostPoints members, here's this week's code: FR4090 . Just record and enter 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.

Let's do this!

Just for the record, according to Greece's Feta PDO designation, the biodiversity of the land coupled with the special breeds of free range GMO free sheep and goats used for milk is what gives feta cheese a specific aroma and flavor. This combined with the aging or maturation process in brine either in wooden barrels or metal vessels makes Greek Feta unlike any homemade or imitation Feta you find in most supermarkets. Greek PDO Feta is made with sheep's milk and up to 30% goat's milk, not cow or 100% goat milk. Cheeses made with cow's milk or just goat's milk are not called Feta in most countries except for the U.S.

You are absolutely correct! In the case of the recipe and story, I found a way to make a cheese that resembles American style feta, but it's even more delicious. If only I could find sheep's milk!

Thank you SO MUCH to Becky Krystal for putting in the work behind your articles this week! I always think about signing up for in-person or on-line classes but with limited time and money, have been afraid of choosing poorly, so I greatly appreciate your scouting them out for me! And keeping a sense of humor about the frustrations :) Two related questions about the in-person classes -- Which schools are you talking about when you write, "on more than one occasion, I’ve felt cheated out of the opportunity to learn something new because some elements had been pre-prepared." And was it that, say, some ingredients were pre-chopped, or more along the lines of "buy our in-house spice blend, flour mix, sauce, marinade"?

ARTICLE: They’ll let you cook in your PJs, but can online classes improve your skills?

Thanks for your kind words. I was -- and still am -- a little disinclined to name the specific schools/classes that didn't let you do the whole process, as it would be calling out folks on things that happened years ago and may or may not be the case now. It was more that prep had been done -- ingredients chopped, cakes baked, meat marinated, that kind of thing. I don't think I've ever taken a class where the instructor made a hard sell about buying a line of products. 

Has there been one definitive African American cook or dish for that matter that has shaped the way the country as a whole eats?

It's funny that greens, which have been standard fare on southern and soul food menus, are now considered part of the menus everyone thinks of as healthy and wholesome, but I'd say most people have at least heard that eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is good luck.

Can I use raw cow's milk?

By all means Yes! Raw cow's milk makes amazingly delicious and creamy feta. 

Hi! I know that it's only September, but I'm looking for some candy ideas that I can test run before adding to my December cookie repertoire. Last year, I made sugared peanuts and apple cider caramels (thanks for turning me onto the King Arthur recipe!), and I'll do those again. Chocolate fudge has proven unpopular for some unfathomable reason, and I'm afraid that marshmallows will get stale too quickly. Other than the above, I'm an experienced baker but neophyte candy maker. Where should I look next? Thanks.

I'll say that if you want to make marshmallows in advance, I have found they store beautifully in the freezer. I make our peppermint ones for the holidays and people go nuts for them.

Peppermint Marshmallows

RECIPE: Peppermint Marshmallows

Bark and brittle are good options too.

RECIPE: Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Cookie Bark

RECIPE: No-Peanut Brittle

Since you mentioned King Arthur, I'll point you to this Peppermint Crunch Bark from them that I love.

Toffee is fun and not too intimidating to make. I had success with a chocolate-toffee bark from the America's Test Kitchen DIY book that I could send you the recipe for if you want to shoot me an e-mail.

I love to make gumdrops, especially with Meyer Lemons. It's easy and they stay fresh for about a month if stored in a cookie tin between sheets of wax paper. 

How has "Soul Food" and the African American Cook shaped the way Americans outside of the "south" eat on a day to day basis?

One of the important messages of The Jemima Code is that African American cooks must be defined by more than their ability to cook soul food. And when we acknowledge that they have been present in hotel, restaurant, train and school kitchens, plus they catered in private homes, it's easy to see how  they influenced American eating habits by doing something as simple as changing the spice or way of cooking a favorite family dish. 

Joe, I want to make the caramelized garlic and butternut squash tart when I have guests over this week. However, I'm nervous about the comments on the recipe. They say the tart dough is way too thick. Is it supposed to be that way - what's your take on this? 

Hi! I loved this tart. The crust was thick, yes, but perhaps because I made it in a very high-sided tart pan, it didn't come out as thick as it did for the two commenters who mentioned such. (And I didn't have any of the problems that the one reviewer did!) I'd say that when you make it, if your tart pan is shallow, you might not need all that crust, indeed -- you could save it for something else, perhaps roll it out thin between layers of plastic and make it into crackers! Or scale it down a bit. Or, of course, just make it with a regular pie crust recipe of your choice. The filling is worth it!

Hi there. I didn't read a recipe carefully enough and bought a pork loin instead of a chop. The recipe is just a rub on the chops, so how can I adapt it for the loin? Slice the loin and then rub? Just more rub without slicing? Or maybe there's no hope! Thanks!

Pork loin (not tenderloin) is the meat that is on the bone in a chop, so you have the right cut, just boneless. You could slice the loin but I would leave it whole, rubbing it all over with that delicious sounding chili/cocoa combo. Cook in the oven at 350° until the internal temperature is 155°, about 20 minutes a pound.

Hi--I have a 3 month sabbatical coming up starting November this year, and I would love to find some classes to take in the area to take my cooking skills up a notch. I'm an enthusiastic home cook and hostess--from cooking dinner every night to hosting large parties, but haven't done more than take cooking classes on holidays in Asia and Europe. Would love your suggestions, particularly for classes that explain the chemistry of cooking (I love Harold McGee) and/or take things in a modernist direction.

First of all, check out our just-posted cooking class list. I see that Culinaerie downtown has an Intro to Molecular Gastronomy class. That sounds right up your alley. They also have a Food Lab series you might enjoy.

If you're game for online education, you should spend some time with ChefSteps, which I tried for my story. You'll really learn a lot about the science of food there.

ARTICLE: They’ll let you cook in your PJs, but can online classes improve your skills?

I have some yellow summer squash in the fridge. Can I use it as a substitute for zucchini in zucchini bread?

I substitute all sorts of summer squash for zucchini in recipes, from crookneck to patty pan. The yellow squashes seem to have less water in them, so if your batter seems dry, just add another tablespoon or two of the liquid in the recipe.

There seems to be a boom in sheep-raising in Virginia & Maryland. Does it matter, as far as using sheep's milk goes, whether the sheep are bred for wool or for meat? Just thinking about possible sources.

I don't think the milk is different, but as I haven't had any luck finding it, I am no expert!

Joe, the recipe featured in your column today sounds good. Where can I purchase Levain Bread?

Levain bread is just sourdough bread -- but you can honestly use your favorite crusty loaf. I'm a fan of Mark Furstenberg's loaves at Bread Furst, which you can get at some Whole Foods Markets (including P Street), if you're local. I've made tartines with his corn rye, which is amazing.

RECIPE: Tartines With Apricot and Endive

Thank you SO much for the DIY feta recipe - we love feta in our house and I can't wait to try making my own!

You'll be part of the Forever DIY Feta Club in no time at all. Since I started making it at home, not a week has gone by without fresh feta on the table. It's divine.

I live near at least a half dozen, excellent and family-owned Mexican restaurants so I rarely buy packaged tortillas. When I do, they are organic and vegan. My question is, of the three choices in the subject line, which is the most healthy?

The definition of healthful is a tricky one. I prefer corn tortillas because they are traditional, delicious -- and typically have less sodium and fewer additives than commercial flour tortillas. I haven't really looked at almond flour tortillas, aimed at paleo diets (right?), but I'm intrigued.

Don't ask, but I have a pretty large quantity of overcooked stringy hard-to-chew beef brisket in my fridge. How can I fix it as an improved leftover without adding any dairy?

       And that is why they have hash. Tell ya, a bad brisket makes a great hash. In a pan, just chop up the meat, along with some cooked potatoes, cooked chopped onion, and cooked chopped green bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper, add a little water and let everything together for about 15 minutes or until the water nearly evaporates, but not quite. Fry or poach a couple of eggs. Place them on top of the hash. And say wow. 

Another thing you can do is chop up the brisket, add some barbecue sauce, warm in a pot, and make chopped brisket sandwiches.

Dear Rangers, Is there a circumstance in which you would write a favorable review of a recipe book that has lots of incorrect or incomplete recipes? I came across an ongoing controversy about a recipe compendium I've not seen, but which critics and even some fans say was badly translated and edited, so that many recipes have incomplete ingredient listings and instructions or obviously incorrect proportions (say, 1 cup of salt per 1/4 cup of bananas, to make up an example). Yet the book, about the cuisine of the country its chef-author is from, also garnered a lot of positive and even glowing reviews. I'll tell you the name of the book if you want . I don't think you reviewed it. But in general, can you imagine ever recommending or writing favorably about a recipe book that has lots of mistakes? How about if it has beautiful photography? Is it ever "kosher" to review a cookbook based on the author's reputation rather than the recipes as presented in the book? How about if you were asked to provide a blurb for a friend's cookbook?

Hi! I think I can speak for Bonnie when I say that, no, if a cookbook had lots of mistakes, we would certainly mention that in a review, and it would absolutely dampen our enthusiasm for it. Susie Chang, who has been writing cookbook reviews for us, tests lots and lots of things out of each book she reviews, and, no, she wouldn't review -- nor would any of us -- based on the author's reputation. As for providing blurbs, I get asked all the time, and I'm VERY picky about what I agree to do.

Love the idea of the "upside down chicken salad" with a nectarine, my favorite stone fruit, but I question the execution advice. As I read about the options of "achieving that appealing thinness" I heard cash register ringing in my ears louder and louder. We cook, and I mean really cook, at home because we want to eat healthy tasty meals we love while saving time and money. I bet those boneless, skinless skinny chicken breast halves cost as much as a whole organic chicken. Telling people to buy that kind of product is like giving them fish, instead of teaching them to fish. It also raises the price of the dish to that of a carry out. Pulling off skin from chicken breast, covering it with a piece of plastic and whacking it a couple of times with a small heavy frying pan takes less than a minute. Why not teach people to do that? Cutting up the first couple of whole chickens can be messy, time consuming and will require a sharp knife, but will lead to a lifetime skills that in the long run will result in more than just savings of $$$$$$. Most importantly it will become a life long gift of better food cooked mostly from scratch for the entire family. Moreover, it will open so many doors. Cathy Barrow's homemade feta recipe would have been of no interest to me before I really started to cook, but this morning, it was the first article I read in WaPo. Now I I have to figure out where to buy the right milk. I loved Becky Krystal's description of cooking classes. Wish online ones were available when I was burning my stews and boiling my stocks. Speaking of which, wish you guys, especially Joe and Bonnie, started making videos of the execution of your recipes, like that other paper I subscribe to does.

Hi! Ellie's not with us today, so she can't speak directly to the criticism about the BSCB idea in her great balsamic chicken-salad recipe, but I just looked on Peapod, and you can get them for as little as $2.49 a pound, while whole chicken starts at $1.89 a pound. So while I absolutely support the idea of teaching people to cut up a whole chicken, these aren't really all that expensive. 

On the videos, we've done lots over the years, but not necessarily ever week -- but that might change!

HELP! 1. I shop at Latin and Asian stores a lot. Since I don't speak any of the languages spoken there when I am in search of something I've never bought in that store before I go armed with pictures on my iPhone. I usually show it to the manager and moments later I find what I came to buy. If you don't have pictures of rennet packages, could you at least tell us how it is spelled in Spanish, please. 2. You say Rennet comes in two forms liquid or tablet, and may be animal or vegetable based. Which one is preferable for omnivores? 3. What does a package of Mesophilic Culture looks like ? In what part of the grocery store should I look for it? 4.Thanks in advance.

In Spanish, the word for rennet is CUAJO (think coagulant). I've asked for it in several Latin grocers. Some know what I'm talking about, some don't. 

I choose the animal based rennet because it's got more oomph than the vegetable based one. This is my favorite.

Mesophilic cultures are never in grocery stores, but are in cheesemaking, winemaking and beermaking stores. I find it online.

The culture and rennet will keep for up to a year (cultures in the freezer and rennet in the refrigerator) and are not very expensive.

supplies for cheesemaking

Hi guys! I've always made mac & cheese with Kraft cheddar, which makes a great smooth sauce. But I am cutting back on sodium, and a half-recipe with Kraft is 1,200+ mg sodium. I've tried a lower-sodium cheddar from the deli (Cooper brand comes to mind), but the sauce separated while in the oven. Is there a trick to making a smoother sauce? I am using the same recipe all the time, and the only difference is the brand of cheese. It doesn't seem like that should make that big a difference. (Also, I am not really into trying different cheeses.)

Does your sauce involve making a roux first with flour and butter? That helps thicken and smooth out sauces. Is there any chance that deli cheese you bought is reduced fat, in addition to reduced sodium? If so, that could definitely screw things up.

How has the African American cook shaped the food served in the white house? Has there been any one dish or dessert that has been a staple?

Adrian Miller is currently working on a project that investigates the role of black cooks in the White House kitchens, so he's the true expert on the dishes they contributed. In Austin, we do remember the chili recipe created by LBJ's cook Zephyr Wright, though for years the dish was attributed to Lady Bird.

ARTICLE: African-American cooks in the White House: Hiding in plain sight

I have these three ingredients and would dearly love to use them in some kind of a dessert. I'm thinking of whipping the mascarpone with heavy cream, then folding in the curd and using the mixture to top a baked, edged sheet of puff pastry (kind of like a tart). Would that work? Or can you suggest another recipe? Thank you!

Sounds like you're on the right track to me. Just make sure your baked pastry is completely cool before you attempt to fill it. Otherwise, you'll get a melty mess.

Why aren't Black cooks recognized for their technical skills and technical expertise as chefs? Why aren't more represented on these food networks??

That is the question that motivated me to write The Jemima Code. As long as there is no written history to contradict the message that we are "naturally gifted" -- not people who learned to cook proficiently with education and practice -- it's easy to be overlooked by publishers, tv networks, and lenders who fund restaurants. Sadly, we are expected to cook a narrow list of soul foods and anything we do outside of that is considered inauthentic and uninteresting to the general public. 

Most knife skills classes a I see make omnivore food. Reccs for one that's veg friendly?

I just did a quick search of our cooking class list and didn't see any knife skills classes that specifically said veg-friendly. The good thing is that so many instructors will customize classes to your interests. You might try, for example, contacting chef Matt Finarelli.

Thank you for the article! I discovered paw paws on the trails with the family at Difficult Run in VA and had them as a snack while hiking. It's one of my favorite family memories, we were all too busy scavenging and eating paw paws to fight with each other ;)

Is there one definitive African American cook that you look to for inspiration or ideas?

Like most people, I used to think Edna Lewis was the final word on African American culinary excellence. Now that I've discovered the authors of The Jemima Code, I have a new, long list of role models with diverse skills and interests who each teach me something different. I will say that Freda DeKnight, the former food editor for Ebony Magazine, who published A Date with a Dish in 1948, is one of my heroes because she collected recipes from black cooks around the country to demonstrate our diverse knowledge. 

My husband and I took that Culinaerie class a few months ago and had a blast! It was our second class with them--definitely recommend.

Oh good! Thanks for the first-hand report.

My sister-in-law makes toffee bars by mixing brown sugar and melted butter, pouring over saltine crackers, and baking. Easy, surprisingly delicious (maybe not so surprising with all that butter), and you can customize with chocolate, nuts, etc. Recipes abound online.

I'm guessing this was for the candy question. Thanks!

Are ANY of the grocery store varieties tasty? As a vegetarian for the last 15 years, I'm not looking for something "just like meat," but I would love a non-mushy burger I can throw on the griddle for the family last-minute! I haven't been able to conjure the perfect homemade burger either, but that's a project for another time . . . when I have more time.

Here's a taste test we did a couple of years ago -- nothing blew us away, but some weren't bad. Now, more brands have become available locally since then, so take a look at veggie burgers from Field Roast, particularly -- those are pretty good. And I just saw a tofu burger at MOM's from Hodo Soy, one of my favorite tofu companies, which is now selling products nationwide, and have been meaning to try it. Check that out, too.

As for homemade, try my Mushroom-Chickpea Burgers!

Does today's fascination with food celebrity continue the invisibility of the skill/techniques in African-American cooking or provide new opportunity for today's chefs? We still don't see too many black faces in the Top 100 restaurants.

Sadly, today's celebrity culture makes things worse. We are still recognized mostly for the food we cooked in poverty kitchens not the food we cooked when we had greater resources. In reality, we should be known for the dishes created when our  resources came from middle class incomes or the pantries of our employers -- dishes we made by choice. This is the same way we honor today's celebrity chefs: for the food they cook in restaurants or on television, not what they prepare at home.

We recently acquired a Big Green Egg, and even when grilling, the smoke flavor seems to prevail, sometimes overpowering the flavor of the food. (We are using natural charcoal and natural starters) Do you have any tips? I don't want everything to taste of smoke. Thanks.

     The BGE is marketed as a smoker. But it can be used more as a non-smoker. First, remove any remnant of charcoal/wood. Then remove the fire ring and the charcoal grate. You'll likely see ash. Scrape out the ash. Put everything back. Then do what you're already doing - use natural hardwood charcoal, which burns hot and leaves little ash and burns clean.  Then, cook. 

Another suggestion: buy a cheap grill (a kettle-style, for example) and use it for your basic grilling and use your BGE for smoking. 

I used to submit wine-related questions to Dave McIntyre during the chat, mainly out of frustration that there's so little wine discussion here in relation to the quality of Dave's columns. It's a must-read, and for wine lovers, it usually leaves me with questions or suggestions to share. So I've been a little discouraged to see that so few others ask about the wine column. Maybe I'm the only Food Chat regular interested in such questions? If so, that won't stop me from saying how much I enjoyed today's column on New York wines. My wife and I visited Brooklyn earlier this year for the first time and then headed to a friend's restaurant for dinner. We were encouraged to BYOB, so we stopped by a Park Slope wine shop the afternoon before the dinner to buy a bottle. We wanted a New York wine, but the selection was very limited. Is that how it is even in well known up-and-coming regions? Do customers want wines from France, California and South America so overwhelmingly that local wine is hard to find? Anyway, we were encouraged to go with a New York five-grape red blend, the name of which escapes me at the moment. It was a bit pricey for us, but given the special-occasion nature of the visit, we sprang for the bottle. We enjoyed it greatly, although the meal was so delectable, one of the best I've ever had, that I can't be sure if it influenced my opinion of the wine.

Dave says:

Thank you for the compliment! I'm gratified that you enjoy my column so much, especially today's. As you probably know, the growth of wine in "the other 47" states not along the West Coast has been a favorite theme of mine in the seven years (as of October 1) I've done this column. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find "local" wines in these regions. When I was in the FLX, several winemakers commented on the difficulties they face convincing local shops and restaurants to carry their wines. It seems to be better here, at least for availability of Virginia wines, in the past few years. But still, the best way to find local wines anywhere is to visit the winery itself.

And to be fair, there are structural factors at play, too. Many wineries in NY, Virginia and Maryland are quite small and still sell most or all of their wines out of their tasting rooms. Around here, we also have state boundaries and the convoluted distribution system, which can make it difficult for a Maryland winery to sell to clients in Virginia or the District, for example.


The best thing we can do as consumers is to ask for these wines, either here or when we travel to other wine regions. Good for you to do so on your trip to New York!

WINE COLUMN: Game on, Finger Lakes wines

Before I drive all the way to Bread Furst, tell me quickly: does the corn rye have caraway seeds in it? I thought for about half my life that I hated rye bread, and then I ate Russian rye in the Soviet Union and found out that it generally doesn't contain caraway seeds -- which I now know I hate!

It doesn't!

Did you buy a whole pork loin (2-3 feet long)? If so, I would suggest doing several different preparations. Roast a foot of it as Cathy suggested. Slice some into chops and use your recipe. You could also then slice some very thick chops to use for stuffed pork chops.

In a recent chat, some have lamented how foods have been culturally appropriated (A white chef cooking food originating from non-white people). Does Toni Tipton-Martin lament how foods cooked by African Americans have been culturally appropriated by white chefs in the US? How should white cooks approach a cook book centered on African American recipes?

The solution to appropriation simply requires the "borrower" to give credit to the cook who inspired the dish. I speak at length about recipe copyright, which I consider culinary sharecropping, in The Jemima Code.  

Hi free rangers! I've started teleworking, and am looking for inspiration for vegetarian lunches I can make at home. So far I've been doing salads, cooked veggies on toast, or leftovers with a fried egg. Any ideas are welcomed, especially warm ones for the fall/winter :)

Thank you for honoring the fact that Black cooks are more than Soul food cooks. My grandmother cooked in the homes of several white families and catered their private parties in Smithville, Texas. Have you found many older cookbooks written by Black Texas chefs?

Hi again. Several of the books in The Jemima Code are written by Texas authors.

Now what do I do with it? It looks great. But I'm not sure what to put in it. FYI, I live alone, but adore leftovers.

In a word - Everything. Soups, stews, braises are all going to be wonderful in that pot because it's possible to cook very gently and slowly for a long time. Bake no-knead bread in it. And, you have to expect this from me, make jam, chutney or conserve! 

I just want to report one thing that can happen with home-canned food that's been kept too long. I ran out of our canned crushed tomatoes from last summer. We rummaged around our boxes of canned stuff and found two jars from 2008. One was fine. I used it, being careful not to taste it till it had boiled for a while. However, the other one was a fail. When I opened it, the seal stuck to the jar, not its lid and the coating on the lid had disappeared. From now on, I vow not to keep stuff forever!

Whoa! It's best to make and use your canned goods within a year.

My favorite are the masala burgers from TJs

It's that dreaded time of year when the squash are out of control and you find mystery bags of it on your doorstep from and neighbor who can't handle all of their garden bounty. I'm looking for a truly unusual but good recipe for zucchini - no breads, fritters, Italian bakes, lasagnas, etc. Any suggestions?

Welllll, you've pretty much ruled out so many things, that I'm drawing a bit of a blank. Here are a few somewhat different options to consider:

Pickled Zucchini

RECIPE: Pickled Zucchini

Zucchini 'Pasta'

RECIPE: Zucchini 'Pasta'

Seared Zucchini and Wilted Chard Tacos

RECIPE: Seared Zucchini and Wilted Chard Tacos

Stuffed Zucchini

RECIPE: Stuffed Zucchini

Zucchini Soup With Parmigiano-Reggiano and Basil

RECIPE: Zucchini Soup With Parmigiano-Reggiano and Basil

Toni Tipton-Martin, I like your culturally enriching story of African American women's contributions to (and in) the American kitchen. However, I have never heard of "chowchow." Would you please tell us what it is and where I could find a recipe you would recommend?? Thank you.

Since Toni is buried in questions (always a good thing!), I thought I'd help her with this one: Chowchow is a Southern vegetable relish. She may have other recipes to recommend, but we have a good one from the Lee Brothers.

RECIPE: Chowchow

Hope I am not too late to chime in. DO NOT be afraid. The squash/garlic mixture by itself is amazing. Just keep tasting so it is perfect to your tastebuds, I've served it without a crust when hosting a gluten intolerant friend and it was fine, I also served it spread on a baguette and cut into bite size slices, and don't tell Joe, my neighbor makes it in a store bought crust. I've never had too thick crust because I automatically roll mine to the right (for me) thickness. Your mentioning the tart reminds me that Joe has a way with flavorings, I am waiting for some offerings from his "new recipe collection" in time for me to appropriate for my Thanksgiving dinner.


I have a LOT of butternut squash in my garden, and I'm trying to figure out what to do with all of them. Do you think I could substitute squash for pumpkin in a pumpkin pie recipe? Other suggestions welcome, but not soup, I don't think I could eat that much soup.

Absolutely, you can swap in butternut squash for pumpkin. (In fact, I believe that some canned pumpkin purees are indeed made from butternut squash. And don't forget pumpkin is a type of squash -- both are in the same botanical family.) Check out this list of recipes from our Recipe Finder that call for butternut! 

We see so many cookery books now that focus on Southern cooking, but it seems that often the recipes are variants of African-American recipes or 'soul food' recipes that have gotten around to many kitchens in the South. Is it worthwhile to distinguish soul food, African-American cuisines, and Southern food traditions? Is it practical (these days) to genre food/books so finely?

This is a very tough question because the term "southern food"  describes a region, not an ethnic group. History drew a racial line that limited the African American part of southern food to the poverty cooking that all southerners once ate and called it soul food. It is vitally important for African Americans to have their own cuisine just as Italian Americans, German Americans, Mexican Americans and other ethic group do, but I'm unsure how we separate black southern cuisine from white southern cuisine.

The pork loin is 4 pounds, long like a cylinder. Does that change anything? (Any non-chicken meat is a puzzle to me!) Thanks so much!

The OP had some great ideas, depending how many people you will be serving. Use a super sharp knife to lop off a big (2-3 pound) piece for roasting and/or make 2-inch thick chops to stuff.

Give me Bavarian feta every time! Luckily I have a couple of excellent sources in my neighborhood.

Bulgarian, perhaps?

Bavarian feta is traditionally made with cow's milk, so you might like the DIY version, too!

where can I find tasty recipes for traditional African-American vegetable dishes...rutabagas, cabbage, peas/beans. Thank you, Ms. Tipton

Check out books by Bryant Terry, the Afro-Vegan. 

i've just submitted a post where I said I roll out the pastry. I DON't. I press it in.

Got it!

Grilled cheese sandwich and canned cream of tomato soup -- just like when I was a kid!

In my previous question about if you thought the rold of these cooks had influence the way people outside of the south eat on a day to day basis, you said "One of the important messages of The Jemima Code is that African American cooks must be defined by more than their ability to cook soul food." I'm wondering what you mean by that. Isn't the ability to cook this type of food and cook it really well that particular cook's 'signature'. Much like the way Emeril Lagasse has his new orleans flair and Julia Child had her French cuisine. Why is it important to cook other styles when this is the cook you are?

Please do read TJC and you'll  see that black people have cooked more dishes than the short list of soul food items they've been given credit for, giving them flair that's not limited to pig parts.

My favorite is the original Morningstar Grillers.

i've had 4 of my 6 questions answered today! thank you:) how do I qualify as a 'favorite chatter'? I'm more and more interested in Toni's book! She has answered all of my "African American Cooks' questions

We will see!

Someone just said they like the masala burgers from TJs -- that's funny, because I hate those! :) So just remember you probably need to play around and buy some different brands to figure out what you like.

Quinoa salad - quinoa only takes a quarter of an hour to cook - you can chop up some veg, add some nuts, add some cheese. You can add a vinaigrette or make it asian with some ginger and soy/mirin.

I have no idea if alomond flour is paleo. It just started being sold by the grocery delivery service I use that specializes in organic, sustainable and local (Texas) products. I questioned corn versus wheat because the wheat tortillas that one of my local restaurants sell is less greasy than the corn. I do prefer the taste of the corn, however.

I second Jim's idea of hash as the perfect way to use up leftover brisket. I suggest when it is all cooked, you pour over and stir in a few tablespoons of cream. Boosts flavor and texture. Another idea is chop the brisket up, fry with onions and taco seasonings, then roll into burritos or use in quesadillas.

Just fyi, Costco (ours anyway) sells Dodoni brand Greek feta which is very good. I had kind of a lightbulb moment when first I tried it because it's so much better than other brands. It's a blend of sheep and goat's milk.

in the question "black cooks matter" you respond with "Sadly, we are expected to cook a narrow list of soul foods and anything we do outside of that is considered inauthentic and uninteresting to the general public." What about the AMAZING effect of Ethiopian born Marcus Samuelsson?? His foods are more than authentic and interesting. His restaurants and presence on the Food Network can't be overlooked!

Yes, Marcus and Carla Hall are doing great things, but I wonder why there isn't room in the industry for more than one or two black professionals who cook intelligently.  We can look back over history and see there have been numerous shows or books on Italian, French and other cultural cooking, but compare those numbers to the African American presence and Marcus and Carla are among the few.

Hair or wool sheep doesn't matter much. Now what they eat makes a difference hay or feed? And some folks prefer all organic. Sheep's milk can difficult to find in this area since it used to make cheese and raising sheep for meat, milk, wool, and cheese is in its infancy in the Delmarva with way too much yuppy farming. Try contacting your local extension service for sheep's milk or the Virginia Border Collie Assoc since many of our members raise sheep and thats why they have Border Collies. See Our prez and VP would love to help and are a wealth of info.

That's wonderful information. This cheesemaker says THANKS.

What was the most surprising thing you learned while writing The Jemima Code? The book sounds fascinating.

I learned to be a better cook! It was fantastic hearing all of their tips and suggestions for making their dishes come out just right.

Well, you've distributed us evenly across toasted bread, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and thanks to Jim, Cathy and Toni for helping with the a's!

Now for the giveaway books. I can't help it: The chatter who asked six (!) questions will get a copy of Toni's "The Jemima Code." The one who asked about using summer squash in zucchini bread will get "The Ultimate Mediterranean Diet Cookbook." Send your mailing info to, and she'll get you your books.

Also, don't forget that you can KEEP CHATTING by going over to Dorie Greenspan's chat right now! She's a pro, and can handle lots of stuff -- with a particular expertise in baking, of course! 

CHAT: Baking With Dorie

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

PS: The chatter who asked about Tamar Haspel and speaking engagements: Can you return next week for her answer? She was on a boat but will send thoughts that we'll post in next Wednesday's chat. Thanks!

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.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Cathy Barrow
Cathy Barrow's first cookbook is "Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving" (W.W. Norton). She blogs at
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Toni Tipton-Martin
Toni Tipton-Martin is an award-winning food and nutrition journalist and community activist who lives in Austin.
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