Free Range on Food: Ellie Krieger, apples, cooking on the coals and more

Sep 17, 2014

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions.
Today's guests: Nourish columnist Ellie Krieger; Canning Class columnist Cathy Barrow; Treats columnist Lisa Yockelson; Rowan Jacobsen, author of "Apples of Uncommon Character: 123 Heirlooms, Modern Classics, & Little-Known Wonders."
Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat! We've got a VIP guest joining us today: Ellie Krieger, our new Nourish columnist -- she debuted last week but will have a recipe in every section. So bring any and all questions about healthful cooking to her attention, and I'm sure she'll have great ideas.

We also have Cathy "Canning Class" Barrow joining us, and Carrie "Spirits" Allan, and Lisa "Treats" Yockelson. And "Apples of Uncommon Character" author Rowan Jacobsen! And Jim "Smoke Signals" Shahin. And Weekend staffer Lavanya Ramanathan, who wrote today's Chipotlification story. AND ... well, and us regulars, of course!

So send any and all questions our way. As usual, our favorite chatter -- or chatters -- today will win a giveaway book, so make the queries good!

Let's do this!

I am soooo happy to see the food section has been given more pages again! I hope this trend continues and is not a one or two time thing. And for a "paper" reader, it was nice to see recipes on the same page as the article. My question for Rowan Jacobsen-I've come to be very particular about apples these days but rarely have time to get to an orchard or farmers market. I'm left with trying to find Pink lady's or Cripps Pink in the grocery stores, which is my favorite. I have started to see other unusual names, but have no way of knowing what flavor profile I am getting, and my success rate at trying new ones is pretty bad. So I just stay away from trying new ones and keep to either Pink apple. Which is fine, unless I can't find them. Any recs for any new apples that would have a similar tart-sweet-firm profile such as the Pinks?

Pink Ladies can be really good, or kind of flat if they're not grown in the right spots. There's another recent apple called a Pinova (which also goes by Sonata and Pinata--don't ask!) that is even better than Pink Lady, with that same intensely tart/sweet/firm profile. If you spot certain heirlooms in farmer's markets, they will also fit the bill. Look for Northern Spy, Esopus Spitzenberg, Newtown Pippin, Gravenstein, and Macoun.

And thanks for noticing the heftier section. We'll be that way at least through the end of the year. And hopefully longer, but at least through 2014.

I love Winesap and Stayman-Winesap, although I'm not sure they fit within the definition of "heirloom," and they are difficult to find outside of my native New Jersey. They seem to be available maybe two weeks in October, if at all, in New York (where I live now).

Those are definitely heirlooms, and some of the most important ever grown. WInesap is a New Jersey native from the 1700s; Stayman was a winesap seedling discovered in Kansas in 1866. They both have that wonderfully firm, tart, "winey" profile Winesap is famous for. It used to be a mainstay in the South, where it thrived on clay soils. Now it's hard to find. But I have a friend who adores STayman and buys them in Manhattan.

Love the topic, hope you give some advice on cooking apples on the BBQ. Something savory to go with my pork chops perhaps? What variety will maintain its integrity, what smoke/spices pairs well etc?

I have a recipe in my book for grilled apples. It works great. Slice them 1/4-inch thick, leave the skin on (for integrity), and grill them about 3 minutes per side. Use the firmest apples you can find. This is where an heirloom such as a russet is going to work better than any of the modern apples. But Granny Smith works fine in a pinch.

What are some of the heirloom apple varieties best adapted to the Mid Atlantic region? I enjoy going to local orchards in Va, but mostly find the standard mix of yellow delicious, red declicions, rome, johnathen, grimes, and granny smith. Some of the newer varieties such a Johnagold and honey crips may also be found. Do you have any suggested orchards with heirloom varieties?

Vintage Virginia Apples, in Charlottesville, is one of my favorite places. They grow close to a hundred varieties. The classic variety for that region is Albemarle Pippin, which has been an industry in Virginia since the 1700s. It was Jefferson's main apple, too. York is another apple with strong Midatlantic roots. It was the staple sauce apple in the region. 

Ellie, I love your books and recipes so much. You are by far my favorite celebrity chef. Just for fun, what's your all time favorite food? In other words, if you could only eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Thank you so much (blushing)! I couldn't possibly choose just one food for the rest of my life! I love almost all food! I suppose, if pressed, I'd have to say pizza---but one of my own, healthier, recipes!

This was basically the summer of negroni awakening for me and I'm still obsessed (with boulevardiers a close second in my heart). Recommendations for other bitter drinks to explore? I've tried out many of the ones on the Campari website, would love if you had other ideas!

God bless you! I love hearing this. Boulevardiers (and their rye cousin, the Old Pal) are my fall-winter drink. For more bitter toys to play with, start getting into the Campari cousins: Aperol, Capelletti. Try some of the amari -- Montenegro, Ramazotti, Zucca, Cynar. Some of them, especially the ones with citrus notes, fly beautifully in Manhattan variations. Another area to explore is is quinquina aperitif wines, which have bitter chinchona bark element in them and are delicious cocktail components. And if you're heading out and about, go stalk Jeff Faile's cocktail menu at Iron Gate restaurant. He has a great love for bitter elements in drinks and makes some excellent bitter-leaning cocktails -- here are two of my favorites.

Hi Rangers! I was recently gifted with a container of saffron, but since it's not an ingredient I've ever had reason to drop the cash for, I'm at a loss for what I should do with it! Can you suggest some neat uses for this special gift?

Love this Peach Saffron Jam from a few years ago. Good timing as peaches are on their way out at the markets!

Peach Saffron Jam

Other cool ideas:

Chicken Bistilla

Chicken Bistilla

Saffron Chicken, Lemon and Green Bean Salad

Saffron Chicken, Lemon and Green Bean Salad

Cauliflower With Saffron, Pepper Flakes, Plenty of Parsley and Pasta

Cauliflower With Saffron, Pepper Flakes, Plenty of Parsley and Pasta

Sicilian Cauliflower Pasta

Sicilian Cauliflower Pasta

Hi Rangers. I did something that I should know better not to. I decided to make a beet dip to take to a party tonight. The beets didn't look so great, but I bought them anyway. I cooked them this morning and they are as awful as they looked. I can't use them, but now I have about half an hour after work to come up with an appetizer. Can you help?

Can you provide a little more context about the dinner? What is the main entree and what's planned for the rest of the menu? Is it a particular cuisine? Or all over the map?

And can I ask you what's wrong with the beets? We might be able to save this! The taste, the texture, anything else?

Your piece on farro says it cooks in 30 minutes, but the farro I have takes probably an hour or so and remains almost "crunchy." It reminds me of hulled barley. Am I buying the wrong kind? I did a little research and it seems there are two kinds (one more processed than the other), but I've never seen anything on the package to let me know what I'm buying. Help?

Yes, different farro brands may indeed be processed differently and it is not always clear when buying. Just cook yours longer, until tender. Add more boiling water as needed.


RECIPE: Herbed Farro Salad With Walnuts, Feta and Spinach

Loved today's recipe. My favorite farro salad in the summer is with radishes and feta with a lemon-mint vinaigrette. Do you have other suggestions? (I also keep frozen cooked wheat berries around, they are a good substitute for farro and less expensive, although they take longer to cook)

Glad you like the recipe. Your summer farro salad sounds delicious. I also like farro with shredded kale, pine nuts and raisins in a red wine vinaigrette, with some grated Parmesan. 

What is the general time difference for baking using a mini muffin pan vs. a regular muffin pan? And would you keep the oven temperature the same? Thanks!

The answer, honestly, would generally depend on the exact recipe you are using--but, in general, retaining the baking temperature without an adjustment seems to work (most of the time!) for me. Of course, the amount of baking time for miniature muffins would need to be adjusted, so begin checking them up to 5-7 minutes in advance. Once again, the baking time would be directly related to the type of batter (density, ingredients, etc.).

Sweet potato recipe says "(Sorry, this method is for charcoal grilling only.)" Directions say "Light the charcoal or wood briquettes..." Guessing you meant to remove the wood briquettes from the directions, right? But why?

      We meant that the recipe is not for gas grilling. You may use charcoal or wood or a combination. 



RECIPE: Corn on the Coals



RECIPE: Eisenhower Coal-Fired Steak



RECIPE: Ember-Roasted Sweet Potatoes With Maple-Ancho Butter


Does your book contain a list of heirlooms good for pie making, sauce making, savory cooking, etc? I also eat an apple every day for lunch. My preference is for the combination of tartness and juiciness found in a granny smith. Do you have any suggested heirlooms which are both juicy with a nice combination of sweet and tart?

Yes, it does. The thing about heirlooms is that quite a few of them were baking specialists, unlike any of the apples found in mainstream supermarkets, so they can make phenomenal pies. Northern Spy, Esopus Spitzenberg, Belle de Boskoop, Jonathan, and Rome can all be really good. Calville Blanc is the go-to tart apple in France; it's super firm. Of the new apples, Jonagold and Goldrush can be excellent for pie.

Can I use Gala apples for the cake? They are on sale.....

In my research experience, Gala apples did not bake up meltingly tender enough in this cake--to my standard of goodness!

I agree. Galas can be amazing fresh if eaten pretty soon after being picked, but after that, they go downhill fast.

I have mixed feelings about the "make your own" trend. On the one hand, I like being able to customize. But on the other hand, the food at those places tends to be sort of blah. Merzi in particular is OK food, only if you don't think of it as Indian food (and I am Indian-American). &pizza's pizza is similarly fine, but not that great. On a side note, I don't go to Shophouse because only one of their sauces is vegetarian, so I am essentially eating the same tasting food every time (I sent them an email about it and never heard back).

My own mixed feelings, in a lot of ways, were inspiration for the story on the Chipotlification of D.C. dining. Why were so many of the new casual restaurants (lunch especially) offering rice bowls with a sauce and a topping? As a vegetarian, I'm excited by their commitment to transparency; Chipotle might have been the first time I walked into a fast-food restaurant where a vegetarian option was clearly marked on the menu. That's certainly something we see now at ShopHouse, Sweetgreen, &pizza, Roti, etc. etc. For people with allergies or religious restrictions, I'd say you can eat at these places with some sense of relief, even. But yes, bowl + rice + protein can get old, particularly if we begin to see it at every other restaurant. 

Congrats all around on your well-deserved awards! The Food section has improved a lot over the years. I always look forward to its arrival on Wednesdays.

DC Sharp at Union Market. Large selection of new knives and very knowledgeable staff. I just had them sharpen my 50 yr old carbon steel chefs knife. Wonderful. Like new and may last another 50. Very tempted to buy new from their tempting selection but now no need.

Yep, I'm a frequent ogler there, too. Haven't had sharpening yet, but it's on the docket.

What's the best way to remove rust spots from a cast iron skillet? And then keep them off?

Lodge has been making cast iron cookware forever and here's their FAQ on rust.

Basically, keep your pan seasoned by heating after washing (no soap) to dry completely, then oil lightly with whatever oil is next to the stove. Olive, canola, grapeseed - it really doesn't matter. 


Is there a tasting guide to different varieties of honey? I thought your apple and honey pairings were interesting, but would like to expand for other uses of honey.

Is this a great country or what? American Honey Tasting Society. (And check out other related Web guides.)

ARTICLE: Apple-honey pairings for the Jewish New Year and beyond

We use kosher and sea salt almost exclusively; they don't contain iodine. Are we missing out on this vital nutrient?

It depends on your diet. We all need iodine in our diet since our body doesn't naturally produce it. The American Thyroid Association has a list of common foods that contain iodine. They include eggs, saltwater fish, yogurt and, in a tender mercy, ice cream.

The book on heirloom apples sounds really cool. If I wanted information about the more commonly available varieties (gala, honeycrisp, granny smith, etc.), is there a good resource, like maybe a website, that discusses which are better for baking vs. sauces or eating raw? I'd love to see something that compares apples.

Yep, my book includes all the new apples, as well as the heirlooms, for just that purpose.

The question about saffron reminded me of recent conversation with my mom. She apparently bought some saffron--in the early 1970s--and because it was so expensive, has never used it. I'm guessing it's no longer any good, even though it's been sealed all this time. What kind of shelf life can you expect with saffron?

Well, "The New Food Lover's Companion" says "up to 6 months." I'd probably be willing to push it a little more than that, but probably not 40 years. :)

I have a place in Danville, Vt. And, I understand you live in Caledonia, Vt. If I bring your books with me, would it be possible to contact you so that you can sign them. Thanks ML

Sure. I actually live in Calais, but that's only about 25 minutes from Danville. Nice spot!

Question for all of you: What are the best places around DC to find unusual apples? (Either orchards or markets.) I'll be down there for Thanksgiving and am pre-planning.

At the Palisades Farmers Market and the small market at Lafayette School, Nob Hill Orchards has 20 or more of their 35 varieties available. Lots of heirloom, signs with notes on flavor, use, and storage make this my favorite apple vendor.

Perfect, thanks!

Bonnie, it worked out fine when I cooked 2 lbs of pasta and added 3 recipes of the sauce at a time. So I pre-cooked 2 lbs just for 3 minutes and let it sit in the colander while I cooked 2 more lbs. Then took the freshly-cooked batch of pasta, put it into my pre-warmed, empty large crockpot for mixing with the first 3 recipes of sauce, and put it on the table in a serving dish. Next, I dunked the first batch of pasta back into boiling water, added the other 3 recipes of sauce, mixed in the crockpot and put that out. With lasagna, other red-sauced pasta and bread, I was able to feed the hordes, THANKS TO YOU, BONNIE! You and the Free Range gang are the best resources on the Internet.

Give that fan a contract!

I have a couple of large tubs of hummus left over from a party. What can I do with it, other than dip carrots and celery in it? Can I freeze some of it?

Yep, you can freeze it, for several months. Some experts say in an airtight container with a thin film of olive oil on top, but I'd go the vacuum-seal or freezer ziptop bag with air pressed out route.


On to what you can do with it: Besides using it as a spread instead of mayo, you could use it as the basis of a dressing -- add oil/vinegar to get the consistency you'd like. I've stirred it into pasta and potato salad -- especially good at room temp or slightly warm. Maybe you could chill it, then use as a filling for flash-fried phyllo cigars? Chatters, Ellie, how about you?


I like to make a "loaded" hummus plate for dinner. Just spread hummus on a dinner plate and top with a sliced hard boiled egg or some spiced ground beef, for example, and serve with cucumber/tomato salad and warm whole grain pita.

Most a-maize-ing corn I ever had was cooked husk-less on coals by street vendors in southern Mexico and Central America. Add a squeeze of lime and it transforms into a different taste, still sublime.

        Ready to book my flight. 

I recently bought, for the first time, fresh pinto beans through the food/farm co-op service I use but have been unable to find cooking instructions for them. No one I know has ever cooked fresh ones, only dried. I frequently cook other types of fresh beans in season in a slow cooker but these are so much denser I have no idea how long the pintos should cook and whether on low, high or a combination of both. Any tips for me? Thanks!

Fresh pinto beans and fresh black eyed peas are showing up at a few markets now. They are so much creamier and grassier than dried ones. I don't use a slow cooker, so can't address that method, but I cook in a large pot, beans covered with water, no soaking necessary. Cook until tender is the best advice I can give you, usually anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes.

A friend came to visit from New York and brought a bottle of wine as a host gift. Unfortunately, I recognized it immediately as wine product intended more for cooking than straight consumption. I of course said nothing but thank you to the friend and set it aside, but now it's been taking up counter space for weeks, and I'm wondering if there's any actual good use for it, or if I should just toss it?

The same thing happened to me recently! I wound up tossing mine after it sat on my counter for months. I can't bring myself to cook with a "wine" I wouldn't drink. But I did consider poaching fruit in it, which I do think would work.

I'll suggest the recipe I always suggest! So apologies to regular readers who might be sick of seeing this: Make this syrup! Fabulous for any wine -- or wine leftovers, or even a combination of different leftover wines. Seriously.



RECIPE: Mulled Red Wine Syrup

I can't find the discussion from earlier this summer on the best way to peel hard-boiled eggs. Or maybe it was about soft- or medium-boiled? Regardless, this morning I took 2 hard-boiled eggs from the refrigerator to make egg salad and removing the peel without leaving a lot of egg clinging to it was annoyingly difficult. What do you do? Thanks.

I was just experimenting with hard-boiling eggs the other day. Some observations:

1. It's true about fresh eggs: Those straight-from-the-farmers-market eggs need at least two weeks in the fridge before they become ready for hard-boiling. They are next to impossible to peel otherwise.


2. Pricking the egg with a tack or needle creates as many problems as it solves. The tiny hole may make the eggs easier to peel, but it also, on occasion, allows hot water into the egg, which creates those ugly craters on the skin.


3. Put your eggs directly in hot water, not cold water. When starting your eggs in cold water and slowly bringing them to a boil, the egg proteins apparently bond more strongly to the shell wall, as Kenji with Serious Eats points out.


4. Finally, make sure to shock your eggs in ice water when finished. Then let them completely cool before peeling. I think you'll find that they peel much easier.

I also do this: Immediately after taking the eggs out and transferring them to an ice bath, I pull them out quickly, one by one, and crack the rounder end (where I have, yes, used an egg-pricker device to place a perfect hole -- which hasn't given me problems). I quickly peel off a little, then put it back in the cold water, and work my way through. I find this helps the water get under the shell and then when I go back through the peel is more likely to come off easily.

Does the top leafy part of the celery have any nutritional value?

Of course they do. Some claim the leaves have more magnesium and calcium than the stalks.

I'm hoping to make my own spatzele and tarte flambee to recreate the foods from a recent trip. I tried making spatzele with a spatzele tool last weekend but the dough kept sticking to the metal grate. Even when the dough slid on the grate it was hard work. Is there an easier way to make spatzele that you could share? I also plan to try making my own tarte flambee. I have a recipe and a pizza stone. But I think that they are typically cooked in a wood oven much hotter than my 500 degree oven. Should I pre-cook the onions and bacon? Any advice would be appreciated.

You must have been in Alsace, or in the Rhine valley

For spaetzle, the dough should be very loose and wet. It's not like a pasta dough, it's more like a waffle dough.

For the tarte flambée, yes, pre cook both onions and bacon because the tarte itself will only cook for 10-14 minutes, not nearly long enough.

I never understood why that pretty-but-awful apple was called "Red Delicious" until I read this Atlantic Monthly article.

A good piece. Maybe a caution in there about "eating with our eyes"?

Yes, the growers gave us what we wanted. We bought the reddest apple in the store, so they kept selecting redder and redder mutations of the Red Delicious. The industry term of art for the current color is "Midnight Red." Love that.

The corn that I've been buying from the farmer's markets is terrific. I think I read somewhere that I can freeze the ears whole, raw, still in the husks. I have a chest freezer so this is an appealing option. Have you done this before?

Over time, I have found that cutting kernels off the cob and packing up 1/2-cup or 1-cup quantities in small airtight containers best preserves flavor and texture.

Today's article says the steak comes out perfectly medium rare. But what if I want it rare? Is direct cooking on the charcoal not advised for rare steak?

    The method is completely fine for rare. Cook for 4 minutes on one side, 4 on the other. The thing is, the char won't be as great. 

Is there any regulation over calling an apple a specific type of apple? Or can somebody try to foist Type A on unsuspecting buyers as Type B?

I don't think there's much foisting, because they mostly all sell for about the same price. The exception is the Honeycrisp, which always sells for more. (My mother reported from Florida this morning that they are $4.99/lb in Publix!) But Honeycrisps have such a distinctive look that you couldn't pass off anything else as them. Now, accidental mislabeling, that's another (common) story...

I'm in a mood to make something that combines blueberries and cherries. So, first, if you have a recipe, please let me know. But second, if I am going to muck about on my own, the question that comes to mind is cooking time - when baked, do cherries and blueberries behave well together, or is there a timing issue with one needing less time such that they don't mix well?

Combining cherries and blueberries in a batter  could possibly make the resulting item (cake, muffins) a little too moist/watery/damp. Likely the mix would do better in a deep dish (that is, top crust-only) pie.

For the first time ever, I tried to make pickles. I have been terrified of getting something wrong, poisoning myself, my family, etc., but a group of us had a very experienced instructor walk us through simple cucumber pickles - the jars are sealed, but they're refrigerated and I thought to eat them within the next weeks. Everything seemed great, except now, just a few days later, in two of my four jars, the liquid is changing from clear to a bit milky. The other two are the same as they were right after sealing. The instructor is completely unconcerned, but I'm VERY concerned! Same batch - so what is different in those two? Should I pitch them?

That milkiness is lacto-bacillus, or the very good and healthy bacteria that causes fermentation. It's a good thing. The other two jars will catch up.

First, I want to say thank you for including make ahead instructions and, where applicable, max freezer storage times. I'm planning a large cocktail party so it is great to have some options to do a couple weeks in advance. Can you provide that best way to thaw frozen baked goods? Should they be moved from the freezer to fridge to defrost and then to the counter to come to room temperature, or can they just be taken from the freezer to room temp? Are there any potential texture issues with either option? I'm particularly looking at the Fudgy Zucchini Muffins and the Apricot Oat Bars if that matters.


My preference is to thaw the baked goods in the refrigerator (in their wrappings), then reheat carefully as necessary or if applicable.

I never read the Food section, but I'm glad to see that Ellie Krieger is joining! Loved her on Food Network; her show was one of the few that I enjoyed and the recipes were great. Guess I'll be checking out the Food section more now!

Glad to give you reason to join the party!

Thank you! I am proud to be on board here and glad you will be checking the section out regularly!

I had a Lady Alice apple several years ago (purchased at Central Market in Texas) and thought it was the best apple ever. Have you tried? Do you know if these are available in this area? Thanks!

That's a fairly recent apple found as a seedling in Washington State. Seems like it's just starting to make inroads around the country. Very sweet and pineappley, I hear.

I think iodized salt is an artifact of a previous era. When I had thyroid cancer and had to eat a low-iodine diet for WEEKS, the list of permitted foods was VERY short. Iodine is in EVERYTHING these days.

I like the use of the word "had" in your comment. I hope you licked that cancer, with or without iodized salt.

By the way, Morton's still adds iodine to its table salt, and even some sea salt products.

I was cleaning out my spice shelf the other day and found some saffron left over from a past project. It is several years old at least. Is it worth using at this point, or should I just toss it and remember never to buy more than I need?

Well, it's not 40 years, right? I don't think you're going to poison anyone or whatever. Won't have gone off. Just might not be as potent.

I'm in NY state a couple of hours north of the City. Several of the orchards here grow many varieties, both new and heirlooms. Which would you suggest for a tarte tartin?

Calville Blanc is considered THE tarte tatin apple, and I know some of those Hudson Valley growers have it, so you might be in luck. Also try Esopus Spitzenberg, an apple that originated right there and Henry Ward Beecher (along with many others) considered the best baking apple ever. Belle de Boskoop is considered a strudel specialist, so that would be perfect for tarts, too. And any of the russets--Golden, Roxbury, Orleans Reinette, etc. Northern Spy is from near there, too.

Hi, love these chats and I learn something every time. I have a jar of flax seed. It's whole and not all pulverized like the stuff I put in smoothies. Should I try to crush this in my food processor to make it more usable? What can I do with it whole?

In my experience, approximating ground flax seed from the whole seeds is a waste of time--unless you have a sophisticated grain mill. I purchase both types--ground and whole. A tablespoon of flax seed (not the ground variety) can be stirred into pancake, muffin, or waffle batter or be stirred into a homemade granola mixture just before baking.

I need a beef or chicken recipe for our community progressive dinner. We have 5 or 6 cooks for about 50 guests so it has to be easy and have a reasonable amount of ingredients. Most important, it has to hold for an hour while everyone enjoys cocktail hour! I found this braised beef recipe which looks very promising, but how could we keep it warm for an hour without drying it out? Or do you have a better idea? Thanks! 

Does this happen to be the reader who also emailed to or me directly? Sorry I didn't get back to you yesterday...Choosing a braise is a great idea. Depending on what liquids were used to cook it, you could just add more broth, say, or even water, and hold it over low heat in a closed Dutch oven. The David Scribner recipe you spotted is terrific; but because you are feeding that many folks, I might go with an even juicier model, like Abigail's Top Secret Brisket of Beef. It has pears! And I have made it for the past 5 Passovers or so. It reheats beautifully -- you could add juice to that one, even. Or a little wine, if you like a winey edge to the sauce.


RECIPE: Abigail's Top-Secret Brisket of Beef

Our favorite kind of apples is honeycrisp, and they seem to be hard to find. We move every few years, throughout the US and internationally, so I've been wondering if they are purely regional? And what other kinds would also be good? Our other grocery store go-to is Pink Lady, or whatever the local farmer's markets have.

Nice picks. Honeycrisps are grown everywhere--they are fast becoming the most popular apple in the country, and the growers are paid three times as much for them as Red Delicious--but they don't grow well everywhere. They do best in cold climates like their native Minnesota, so beware of Honeycrisps from hot places. They have become so popular that I wouldn't be surprised if they're a little hard to get this fall--and very expensive! (currently $4.99 in Florida.) Macoun is an old apple that has the same "breaking flesh" as the Honeycrisp--and even better flavor, many of us find.

but if you're making egg salad, it shouldn't matter that there's egg clinging to the shell. Scrape it out with a fingernail and it saves you some chopping.

In fact, if you're making egg salad, you can just cut the whole, hard-cooked eggs in half with a serrated knife and pop them pop the halves out with a spoon and then chop.

Our local farmer's market (Howard County Library, Miller Branch, parking lot) has lots of great apples that I love sampling (and they're not waxed!). Last week I got to taste a yellow variety I'd never heard of, Ginger Gold and Ginger Supreme (named for the breeder's wife Ginger, not for the spice).

Exactly! I love when people tell me that they detect a ginger note in Ginger Gold. But it's a good apple--the first firm and tart apple of the year to come ripe. Doesn't brown when cut, either.

How long can I keep homemade (not canned or processed) applesauce in the fridge?

If it's got a little butter in it, I wouldn't go past a week in the fridge.  Without that dairy component, 2 or 3 weeks maybe. But you could freeze it for months.

The beets taste bitter. The main dish is salmon and there's an arugula salad.

Since you're making a dip, I think you could rescue those beets with some roasted walnuts (just make sure they're not too old so you don't add to the bitterness), a little yogurt, some garlic, maybe a little honey, all to taste until you get what you like. Maybe some goat cheese or feta instead of the yogurt? I wouldn't give up on them!

Lisa (or anyone): is is possible to bake butter type cookies as bars? This is a pineapple coconut cookie, and I just don't have the time to fuss with the cookie scoop and dropping and such. Can I bake in a 13 x 9 pan for a 4-dozen yield recipe? Maybe at a lower temp to give it time to bake through?

To offer a best-guess answer, I'd have to see the ingredient list for the cookie dough. In some cases, a moist drop cookie-dough can be baked as bars, but it really depends on the recipe.

So excited to catch you live! I have 32 ozs of plain greek yogurt use up. Won't eat it or make a dip. Do you have recipes that use lots of yogurt or sour cream? Stroganoff with a sour cream chocolate cake?

Applause for apples - They are the upside to the end of summer. And I agree, the peel stays on - or in. Taste, color, texture, vitamins. I remember the day 40-some years ago that I walked into a general store on a fall visit to the Finger Lakes and saw maybe 20 baskets and barrels, each with a different variety of apple, many named for nearby towns. For a girl who'd grown up on Macs and tasteless Red Delicious (what a misnomer), it was a revelation. My question: Do all apples taste substantially better when just picked, or do some retain their flavor until they wrinkle and maybe even past then?

The Finger Lakes are apple nirvana. Many of those old varieties were selected specifically to be stored in the root cellar for months. There, they would slowly soften, sweeten, and develop outrageous flavors. It's a whole area of apple connoisseurship that our ancestors knew well but has been lost on the modern food industry. I'm seeing signs that it's starting to come back!

I love eggs but hate mayo. Any ideas on what might work instead. I once had egg salad made with avocado instead of may, and that was awesome.

It really depends on what you want to use it for. Avocado is great for some things -- and I love that egg salad idea, btw. You could also try tahini or other nut butters.

Basil pesto is nice in a egg salad too.

So, if not Gala apples, what apples would be a better choice? Thanks!

As mentioned in the head note to the recipe, I have had success with Rome Beauty, Cortland, Jonathan, McIntosh, Stayman, Empire, Fuji, Jonagold, Northern Spy, Winesap, or York Imperial. Happy baking!


RECIPE: Harvest Apple Cake

You mean iodine is like soy flavoring and salt and high-fructose corn syrup, added to everything? That's awful. On the other hand, if you stay away from processed foods you should be fine.

No, iodine naturally occurs in some foods. The National Institutes of Health has more information on iodine and the foods in which is naturally occurs.

In about a month my mother and I will be making our yearly batch of apple butter. What heirloom varieties do you recommend? We're cooking on the Northern Neck of Virginia.

There's an old apple called Porter that was famous for good apple butter. Fannie Farmer loved it. But in the Midatlantic and South, Grimes Golden has always been considered the sauce and butter apple par excellence. It's a beautiful little yellow apple with a sort of banana/licorice flavor, and still grown by many orchards in the region. It was the favored apple for moonshine, too.

Thank you so much for offering to sign my books authored by you. What would be the best way to contact you. I'm so excited. ML

Via my website:


Kosher salt -- properly made and labeled -- should not contain any iodine.

Yes, that's right.

Thanks for the answer, which unfortunately I don't fully understand. If cherries can be put in a batter, and blueberries can be put in a batter, why can't, say, 50% cherries and 50% blueberries be put in a batter? I don't see where the extra moisture comes from. Thanks for the idea of a deep dish pie - it's all about the fruit, for me. :)

Cherries and blueberries, together in a batter have different textural weights, so during baking largely don't retain the same structure due to the fact that some batters would not suspend them equally.

I haven't been there 'cause from their menu, it appears all their rice has cilantro in it. Now what kind of choice is that?

Ha! Poor cilantro, that most polarizing herb...

Congratulations to the Post Food Editors who won awards - more than deserved. Joe, I made your Curried Cauliflower Eggplant dish from last week's newspaper and it is absolutely delicious! I am having some for lunch today. My question is do you use any recipe apps and if you do which one(s) do you like?

Thanks so much -- appreciate it. And glad you liked that recipe. I haven't really played around THAT much with recipe apps -- I download some and they look cool and everything, but then I just go back to my cookbooks and blogs!

Between taste preferences, and dislike of the mouth feel of both very crisp or very mealy apples, the only ones I have found that I really like to eat raw are Cortlands - but those I absolutely love! Do you have any similar suggestions - I find I'm more flexible with regard to tart/sweet than I am with texture.

Yes, texture trumps flavor with apples (and most other things). One of my pet peeves is how all the modern apples are super-crisp. There used to be more variety, and people were open to more different things. Try Cortland's parent, McIntosh, for a similar experience. Gravenstein also has that same tender flesh. As do most of the "summer apples": Yellow Transparent, Red Astrachan, Irish Peach, Chenango Strawberry.

Hummus makes an awesome pizza sauce especially greek style with red onions, fresh tomato and olives.

Of course! I had a recipe in my first book for flatbread with spicy hummus and roasted eggplant. Love it.

While in the Shenandoaah Valley I stopped at a small farm (my old middle school math teacher's) and picked up an apple called King David. I LOVED it, and the owner was surprised that I liked to eat it raw. I've tried to find some info on it but haven't been susccessful and they bought the land with it already there.

  • A famous and revered apple from the 1800s. Consider yourself fortunate!

Same with tomatoes. why people still buy those mushy pink tasteless things is beyond me.


There is a delicious recipe in the old "Joy of Cooking" for a dressing that involves a plain vinaigrette pureed with hard-boiled egg and watercress. Use that in an egg salad and it's as good as pesto.

Can I make a pasta sauce out of these? I'm cleaning the fridge. Have the usual pantry and fridge staples too.

The Kitchn has a recipe for Pumpkin and Ricotta Pasta Casserole, which should fit the bill for you. It includes both ginger and garlic to help balance out the sweeter flavors.

as requested by LIsa: 1/4 cup pineaple juice, 1 cup diced dried pineapple, 3/4 cup butter, 1/3 cup brownsugar, 1/2 cup coconut milk powder, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 1 egg, 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup toasted coconut

What is coconut milk powder? Do you mean coconut flour? With the amount of butter used, it looks like this set of ingredients would be hospitable to bar-cookie-baking. I would watch the baking time to make sure that the entire pan full of batter bakes evenly (without over- or under-baking).

Is this apple available in the DC/MD area? I love the name!

Yes, it's my favorite name. It's just fun to say. Jefferson grew it at Monticello. You can definitely find it in the area, though I think it tends to do a little better around New York. Many consider it to be the most mind-blowing apple America's ever produced.

I have a couple friends in Portland, Oregon who do an excellent cocktail on food and drink (mostly the latter). Trouble is, most of their recommendations are for local things that we don't have here in DC. So, I was wondering if you have any recommendations for local podcasts about food and drinks, as I'm really enjoying that format but would like to find something closer to home to enjoy as well.

Well, our friends Sally Swift and Pati Jinich recently started one, Big Appetites. Check it out!

Help please - not being a real southerner and not knowing how to fry anything really, what is your BEST easy recipe for making Fried Green Tomatoes?

If you're new to frying, don't imagine a big deep pot of oil, instead, use your widest frying pan with sides. The oil should be about 1-inch deep. Or use bacon fat. No judging.

Slice the tomatoes 1-inch thick (see what I've done there?) Place them on paper towels to dry the surface a bit. Set up a three step dredge - One plate with a cup of flour, a shallow bowl with two or three beaten eggs, and another plate with half cornmeal and half flour. Season all three very well with salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne.

Get the oil up to about 375°F, when a small piece of bread starts frying as soon as it hits the oil. Slip in the tomatoes. Don't crowd. Cook about 5 minutes per side. Turn the tomatoes over carefully to avoid splashing.

You're going to love them.

I have to laugh at two of today's recipe lists - I was just looking through my spices and thinking I should do something with the saffron - and you posted saffron recipes. Also, last Saturday I accidentally bought Greek yogurt at the farmer's market (it was right next to the mozzarella, and I was still half-asleep), and I'm not a huge fan of yogurt. And there it is, Greek yogurt recipes! It's one thing to answer submitted questions, it's even more impressive when you're answering questions I didn't even submit. Thanks!!

Consider us mind-readers! ;-)

re "Galas can be amazing fresh if eaten pretty soon after being picked, but after that, they go downhill fast" What varieties go downhill slowest and is it true apples should always be refrigerated? Thanks

I've had good luck storing (for no longer than about 2 weeks) the Cortland and Empire varieties.

I made a pasta last night with a ricotta-based pesto--a riff on Calabrian pesto +basically peppers and ricotta), If the poster can jazz up the pumpkin with some herbs or peppers, it should be fantastic!

I love the Spencerville Reds at Heysers in Silver Spring. Tart (but not so much as granny smith) and firm.

That sounds like a very local apple. Part of the beauty of apples is that when a new seedling springs into being, it's the first of its kind, so if people like the apple, they get to name it and graft it. That's why so many of the old ones have such charming names. I'm still searching for my "Rowan Red" here in Vermont.

Is it possible to buy peanuts that haven't been roasted? And are they any good? I love peanuts, and I know they are technically a legume, so I'm curious what they would be like just simmered.

You can certainly find raw nuts such as peanuts, cashews and almonds at Indian/South Asian grocers. We often soak raw nuts before adding them to sauces and chutneys for heft and creaminess. One of our local restaurants, Southern Efficiency, told me they soak and simmer peanuts, as one would beans, to make a base for a Virginia peanut soup. The results are quite tasty. (Of course, you can use peanut butter for the soup too; here are a handful of recipes.) 

Yes, I'm the same reader who emailed you -- didn't know which format you preferred. Your alternate recipe sounds really exciting. Do think we'll go with that. Thanks!

I found some at my farmer's market. it is made out of lamb, but bacon eaters (i am not one) said it taste the same or pretty close to the real deal. As a person who has never eaten bacon I need a little help please. Both for how to cook it to just eat it plain and for recipes to incorporate it into.

Lamb bacon or any bacon is a great start for a stew, a pasta sauce or a pot of beans. Just chop it up and add it to the pot first, adding a little glug of oil if there isn't much fat in the bacon. 

Like Joe's suggestion, only simpler -- when you take the pan of hot water and eggs off the stove, drain off the water and fill with cold water. Meanwhile gently agitate the pan to knock the eggs into each other and the sides -- they'll develop hairline cracks, which the ice water will seep into, and will become easier to peel when you're ready.

I picked up some Eau de Vie of Douglas Fir recently, which I understand to be brandy with woodsy flavors. I'm excited about it, since it sounds really interesting, although I'm not quite sure how to use it--maybe with something smoky. Any suggestions?

I'm sure Carrie will have some great suggestions, but I wanted to add that earlier this month, I returned from San Francisco, where I was a judge at the Good Food Awards. One of biggest trends in the Pacific Northwest is apparently the use of Douglas Fir. I tasted some charcuterie that include the ingredient. It gives off a VERY piney flavor, similar but stronger to Simcoe and Chinook hop varieties that brewers use in beer.

When I was a kid I used to help my grandmother put up corn, and she always gave it a quick shock in boiling water to bring up the sugar and color - then used a madeline style plane to shave off the kernels into a 10x13 casserole pan - Then also a fish scaler to get out any of the last little germ bits from the cob. Then we scooped about 1.5 - 2 cups into plastic baggies (freezer bags would work) and stored them in the deep freeze. By far the best corn I've ever eaten. Freezing your own corn is totally worth it, but a very sticky process, for sure.

My paternal grandmother, a big canner, preserver, freezer cook, did the same. In my experience, if the corn is used within a few months, I bypass the "quick shock" as a time-saver, but it is really the best pre-treatment!

But I find that if I don't use soap, the previous tastes linger. I use soap and then I re-season.

I find that a good amount of coarse kosher salt and a plastic scrubby thing takes care of any seasoned cast-iron skillet cleanup.

Yeah, re-seasoning each time sorta defeats the purpose of having cast iron, IMHO. I usually just rinse and use a brush without soap to quickly clean, and dry very well. Don't have lingering tastes.

I rinse my cast iron pans under the hottest water I can stand. This warms the pan. I then dry with a dish towel and let it sit on the counter over night. In this way I do not forget and leave the pan on a hot stove. The next day I oil the pan and put it back in the cast iron stack.

On a radio call-in show, a bird expert from Cornell explained that birds wait to eat crab apples until after they have been frozen. The insides turn mushy and sweet, perfection for birds.

Thoreau wrote about eating frozen apples in his wonderful essay on Wild Apples: 

“Let the frost come to freeze them first, solid as stones, and then the rain or a warm winter day to thaw them, and they will seem to have borrowed a flavor from heaven through the medium of the air in which they hang.... filled with a rich, sweet cider, better than any bottled cider that I know of, and with which I am better acquainted than with wine. All apples are good in this state, and your jaws are the cider-press.”


I just want to tell Ellie how much I love her work. I have three of her cookbooks and use them all the time. I think "So Easy" is probably my favorite. Ellie, you have made a huge difference in my ability to prepare healthful, satisfying food every day. Thank you so much.

Thank you so much! That is wonderful to hear!

I have had great success grinding whole flax seed in my (retired coffee-) spice grinder. Buying the seeds whole and keeping in the fridge really reduces the incidence of rancidity!

Congratulations on the awards. You do a great job! Chicken leg quarters were on sale and I bought some (I only buy chicken breasts!) I am now in a dilemma about cleaning the fat. How much fat do I have to clean? It is not easy to clean all of the visible fat. Is it okay if there is still some left? I am aware that leaving the fat increases the fat content of the end product...cooked or baked or whatever. Need your advice! Thanks.

Depends on how they were trimmed. I usually take off extra skin that's tucked under the thigh section, and that's it. Are you familiar with this lemon and honey chicken dish? It'd be perfect for your legs...


RECIPE Lemon and Honey-Flavored Chicken

I like using plain yogurt instead of mayonnaise for egg or tuna salad. Don't flax seeds need to be ground up in order to benefit from all their nutrients? I thought I read the seeds are really tough so don't break down in our system.

Yes, I believe that flax is better absorbed in its ground state, but the chatter did ask about uses for the whole seeds.

Dairy - I was told there is now iodine in dairy as iodine disinfectants are used in the milking process,

Apparently so at some farms. But, according to one study, it's questionable whether it raises the level of iodine in the final milk product.

Ellie, what is your most-requested recipe in your house?

I always have a pot of minestrone soup on deck in the cooler months. It is my daughter's favorite. My cioppino is also often requested---I'll be featuring one in my column next month.

No! Refrigerating stops them from ripening and deadens the flavor. Just leave them out on the counter.

Unless they're dead ripe. Or you're gonna keep them around a while.

Boiled peanuts are a Southern Thing. You should be able to find them or find a recipe for them, by googling.

is a popular Indian street snack. The vendors have metal buckets filled with coal with a grill on top. Used to be two rupees each, with lemon juice salt and red pepper.

Jazz. No idea what it was made from. Do you guys know? It is very tart and very crisp without being quite as sour as granny smiths can be. (Also, it reminds me of going on vacation because Air Canada's short trip service is called Jazz, but that is just me.)

Jazz is one of the newest New Zealand apples, a cross of Gala and Braeburn (two of the most famous NZ apples). It's very much in the modern style: Very sweet and crisp, with maybe a bit more tang than its brethren. It's starting to look like a breakout apple.

Does the weather make some apples harder?

Apples grown in a colder climate will generally be harder (and tarter).

The "fresh eggs needs 2 weeks before boiling" is crap. Don't hard boil them, steam them. Put them in a steamer basket and steam for 30 minutes, then run under cool water for 10 minutes. They come out perfectly. I have chickens and have done this with HOURS old eggs, and never had any problems peeling them.

Interesting! I'm intrigued -- and, I have to say, a little skeptical, because I barely simmer eggs and don't really see how steaming them would make such a difference! But eggs are INCREDIBLY variable. A few years ago I had many questions for the great and powerful Harold McGee on this topic, and he assured me that he had tested thousands upon thousands of eggs, and lots of the tricks we think work aren't all that dependable when you really study it. But I'll certainly try the steaming idea!

My German family doesn't bother with a spaetzle maker--we just pour the batter onto a plate and cut it off into boiling water with a butter knife!

Oh, you all are making me envious of your access to heirloom apples. I'm pretty much limited to the grocery store varieties. My new favorite which only shows up for a limited time is Kiku. Do you think Kiku would work in a pie?

It's very, very sweet, so I'd lean toward a tarter variety for pie. Or mix it up! The best pies have maybe 3-5 varieties in them.

I'm cooking Rosh Hashanah dinner next week. Any suggestions for a vegan, tree nut-free main?

Might be nice to stuff and roast big, sweet onions with whatever vegan filling (a grain plus vegetables?) that suits your purposes. Drizzle pomegranate molasses on top near the end of the oven time.

I'm new to canning - first successful batches of pears, peaches and plums this year - and was planning on re-using everything next summer now that I'm a confident canner. I noticed that Cathy Barrow's recipes always call for new lids and rings when canning. Is this a hard and fast rule? I can see if I bent a lid that I wouldn't want to re-use it, or if a ring started rusting I wouldn't re-use, but otherwise, I'm not sure why I would get rid of lids and rings that look to be in perfectly good shape. Advice?

Yes to reusing rings. I do it all the time. But not the lids! That sealing compound is one-time-use only.

Well, you've cooked us for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until we are mushy, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, and thanks to Ellie, Rowan, Lisa, Cathy, Carrie and Jim for helping us with the answers!

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who asked about the frozen crabapples will received a SIGNED copy of Rowan's great book, "Apples of Uncommon Character." The one who asked Ellie what the most-requested recipe in her household is will get a SIGNED copy of her latest book, "Weeknight Wonders." Send your mailing info to, and we'll get you the books!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Travel editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Food section's Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick has the job most envied among cocktail-party conversations. If they only knew. ... Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Cathy Barrow
Cathy Barrow's Canning Class appears twice a month. Her first cookbook, "Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving" (W.W. Norton), will be published in the fall. She blogs at
Ellie Krieger
Ellie Krieger is the Food section's Nourish columnist. Her most recent cookbook is "Weeknight Wonders: Delicious Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less." She blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at
Rowan Jacobsen
Rowan Jacobsen is the author of the just-released "Apples of Uncommon Character: 123 Heirlooms, Modern Classics, & Little-Known Wonders."
Lavanya Ramanathan
Post staff writer Lavanya Ramanathan wrote this week's story about fast-casual DIY eateries.
Lisa Yockelson
Lisa Yockelson is the author of "Baking Style" and several other cookbooks. Her Treats column is an occasional feature in the Food section.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is Food and Travel's editorial aide.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is the Food section's Spirits columnist.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
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