Free Range on Food: Persian cuisine, making fresh pasta, Mike Isabella's new book and more

Sep 26, 2012

Maziar Farivar, the subject of this month's Immigrant's Table, joins us to talk about Persian food. And The Process columnist David Hagedorn helps us demystify homemade pasta. Past Free Range on Food chats

Good afternoon, all! We Free Rangers are a mere shadow of our usual selves today. We're missing Head Ranger Bonnie, who's celebrating Yom Kippur.


But we have  two guests to help fill the knowledge gap experienced by Bonnie's absence: We have Maziar Farivar, chef/partner at Peacock Cafe in Georgetown and the subject of my recent Immigrant's Table column, as well as David Hagedorn, who faced his fear of fresh pasta for The Process column and created a few mouthwatering dishes.


Of course, we have many of the usual Food suspects: Becky Krystal, Spirits columnist Jason Wilson, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin and Jane Touzalin, who can answer questions about her recent review of chef Mike Isabella's debut cookbook, "Crazy Good Italian."


Speaking of Mike's cookbook, we'll be giving a copy away  -- along with a copy of Christine Moore's "Little Flower" cookbook -- to the two readers who submit the best questions in today's chat.  So let's start this thing up!

Any suggestions for a casserole or other meal to take to someone going through chemo (and her family)?

That's really nice of you. Check out these Mexican casseroles from our friend Patricia Jinich.

Chicken and Tortilla Aztec Casserole (Cazuela Azteca)

Also there's our recipe for Lemon Chicken and Rice Casserole.

Lemon Chicken and Rice Casserole
The beauty of all those is that they also fall into our Make It, Freeze It, Take It recipes. So you can bake up some for immediate consumption, or you can put together a preassembled dish for them to freeze and pop in the oven later.

Hi Chef Maziar! First Congratulations on being one of the 80 chosen Culinary Ambassadors and Member of the American Chef Corps! My family and I LOVE Peacock for any occasion! I am always wondering what is best? Dried or fresh herbs? Whenever I buy fresh it seems like I use a little bit and waste the rest of the bunch... Should I use dried herb instead?

First, thank you so much. As to herbs, each has its own place and should be utilized accordingly. Most often they are interchangeable as long as you adjust the portions.

Since we are inundated with pears I'm planning to make the chocolate pear spread featured a few weeks ago. 800 g of sugar for 2.25 lbs of pears seems exorbitant. Is that amount necessary for the consistency or for keeping qualities? Or can I reduce it by half or 2/3? Thanks!

pear and chocolate jam

Straight from the book:

It is the magical combination of sugar, acid and pectin that makes a good set. A high proportion of sugar also acts as a preservative, so don't be tempted to reduce the amount.

So there you go. It's definitely a sweet jam, but not one that you'd taste and think was too sweet. The dark, dark chocolate that you use offsets the sugar nicely.

First I wanted to say thanks for the great pasta recipes and article! I bought a hand crank pasta maker a few years ago and was lightly poked fun at by my boyfriend and friends who said either a) it wouldn't be worth it or b) it would take up too much time. I now get asked to make a big pasta dish for any group dinner, and my boyfriend loves when I freeze angel hair "nests" or make a big batch of ravioli. My question - Are you guys looking forward to the new season of Top Chef? According to DC Eater there will be three locals on the show. Are you rooting for one in particular? More importantly - do you know if Seasonal Pantry will remain open while the show shoots?

Personally, I'm looking forward to new season of "Top Chef" even if I thought "Top Chef: Texas" was mostly a bust for a number of reasons (including the utter hokiness of some of the challenges). 


If you haven't heard "Top Chef: Seattle" will feature two working Washington chefs: Bart Vandaele from Belga Cafe on Capitol Hill and Daniel O'Brien from Seasonal Pantry off Logan Circle.  Another cheftestant Jeffrey Jew is a D.C. native who has worked at Marvin and Blackbyrd.


Seasonal Pantry will, no doubt, be open, since the show is taped in advance.

If I have to prepare meals for someone who has kidney stone problems, what ingredients should I stay away from besides black tea?

Here's some info from the NIH on foods high in oxalate that you should avoid.

Hello, Made pasta with my rolling machine once, twice; heavenly. Put it up for a few years, broke it out again: total disaster. Dough would not feed properly through the rollers, would split and go around each one, worked into sides. Just horrible. Honestly I was so worked up that I just wiped it down and reboxed it without a good cleaning; just couldn't deal with it right then. (Let me mention that this was a demonstration of how "easy-peasy" making your own pasta is to some friends, lest I seem too tightly strung). I'd love to try again now that I have some time between me and that night. What's the best way to give pasta machines a good cleaning? And what do you think could have gone so terribly wrong that one time?

According to the instructions with my machine, water should never come anywhere near the machine. Just give the machine a good wipe all aound, use a pastry brush to brush away semolina and extraneous bits.

I have to admit, though, that I took a cloth and spritzed it with Fantastik and cleaned whichever surfaces I could get to. Then I took a clean cloth and went over my work. I know plenty of people who just give it a cursory wipe and put it back in the box for the next session. 

As to what went wrong, I'm hardly the expert yet (give me another week), but it could either be the texture of the dough (too dry) or that you didn't flatten it enough to feed easily into the largest roller.

I suggest you use Domenica's recipe and give it another go.

Hi there! I'm hoping you might know of a recipe for a dish that I had when I was younger. My dad had a Persian co-worker who invited us over for dinner. One of the side dishes was this lovely rice, potato, and saffron dish. The potatoes were thinly sliced and placed on the bottom of an oven-safe dish, and they were covered in rice. At some point, saffron entered the picture. Would you happen to know any of the methods used so I can recreate this dish? The potatoes were perfectly crisp--almost like potato chips. And some of the rice that got between the potato slices was crispy as well. Mmm...excuse me while I wipe my mouth.

Yes, this is a common method of preparing rice. Simply put, after initially boiling rice, thin potato slices are placed in the bottom of the pan with some melted butter and saffron and rice is poured over it you put the lid on tight can finish on stove top or in the oven. Good luck!

My vegetarian family tends to take protein for lunch and veggies for dinner. I'll pack rice and either lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas for work and school lunch. For dinner, we end up with a roasted vegetable and pasta or an Indian vegetable dish with TJs frozen naan. The kids may be vegetarian, but they're still kids, so they are not keen on vegetables, which leaves them lots of pasta for dinner. I would love to get some new ideas to make dinner tasty and more interesting, but without the meat.

When you say ideas, are recipes OK? Here are almost 30 kid-friendly, meatless main courses from our database.

But let's also throw this out to the peanut gallery. Parents, what are your strategies for getting kids into vegetables?

Is there any place to buy clean rice? What about rice from organic farms? Rice from Italy or Spain? We eat a lot of rice and this issue is frightening.

I don't think so, but maybe some of our chatters have a more definitive answer. My understanding is that rice (and other crops) pick up arsenic from the soil, where it occurs naturally.


The FDA is apparently working on a plan to limit the arsenic levels in rice. In the meantime, we're supposed to eat less!

I've got some herb plants that grew really large this summer, and I'm wondering if there's an easy/good way to use a bunch of them up, such as in a sauce. I'm already planning on doing pesto with the sweet basil, probably combined with the greek basil. But I also have a *ton* of thai basil, lemon verbana, and spearmint. Any ideas that would use a lot at once would be appreciated!

For that Thai basil, here are a few suggestions:

Basil Chicken

Basil Chicken

Germaine's Thai Basil Chicken

Germaine's Thai Basil Chicken

Le Thiep's Pho Ga (Chicken Pho)

Spicy Mint Beef (which, as the name indicates, will also use up your mint)

Spicy Mint Beef

For the mint, you could make Cilantro-Mint Chutney.

Or Citrus, Mint and Pomegranate Salad.

Citrus, Mint and Pomegranate Salad

Samira's Tabbouleh.

Mint Juleps for a crowd.

Mint Julep

You could make a ton of simple syrup infused with mint too.

Hi! Chef Maziar, first let me tell you what a big fan of Peacock Cafe I am! I have been going there for almost 16 years now and the food and service never disappoint! My question for you: what are your most favorite ingredients that you use over and over in your kitchen?

My answer often surprises people. Believe it or not,  salt is just about the most crusial ingredient as just about any dish requieres it. I keep many different types of salt and even make my own flavored finishing salts. Other than that, these days a great saffron,  cumin,  coriander are necessities on the spice rack and variety of onions for different recepies. I always have five or six types of onions available in my kitchen. 

I would love to do a dessert with either coconut flour or garbanzo flour; do you have a tested recipe that you love using these flours?

For the chickpea flour, try Chickpea Cookies (Nan-e nokhodchi).

Chickpea Cookies (Nan-e nokhodchi)

I can't find that we've run any recipes using coconut flour. Chatters?

I am an avid baker and always buy unsalted butter but my dear husband bought salted butter this past weekend. I know we use unsalted b/c you can't be sure of the consistency of salted and I was wondering if I can still use the salted butter for baking? I'm sure I'd have to reduce the amount of salt I add if I'm using salted butter but is there a good rule of thumb on this issue? Or should I just see if the store will allow me to exchange it? Thanks for your help!

For years, salted butter was just about the only kind a home cook could buy, so yes, you can bake with it. But it's hard to give you a hard and fast substitution rule because the amount of salt in salted butter varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. However, start by reducing the salt in your recipe by 1/4 teaspoon for every 1/2 cup of butter. Or -- just take the butter back to the store and switch it. Much easier! And it'll taste better.

Thanks to everyone who responded last week to my questions about DC farmer's market prices and options. I couldn't participate live, and you were very helpful. I live right near Dupont Circle having moved from Boston (not a low-income area) for a fellowship and am surprised at high-priced DC farmer's fellowship colleagues are equally stunned. Anyway, branching out away from Dupont has been interesting. Last week I was disappointed by the RFK market, but this weekend I went to the market at 14th and U Streets, NW at the Reeves Center. It's small but really good, and the prices were better than at Dupont, though not as low as what I'm used to. I'll try Adams Morgan next. Further suggestions welcome! Still would like to figure out why farm market prices overall are so high here. I understand Baltimore is a lot cheaper, but the transportation would negate the savings. (Posting early again so can't answer live quetions.) Many thanks.

Hey, thanks for writing back. Chatters, keep those recommendations for cheaper markets coming. I'm not an economist, so I hate to even venture a guess, but I just think everything is more expensive in the city. Our office is a few blocks away from the Thursday FreshFarm market by the White House, so I often go there to pick up some food. Not in large quantities, though, because I've noticed that the exact same farms are charging 10-20 cents more per pound than what they do at the Arlington markets I go to on the weekend.

So glad to see this article today! I love fresh pasta and typically use the attachment on my Kitchen Aid mixer to flatten/cut the sheets. I have a problem with the cut strands sticking together off the machine. They come out cut cleanly, but immediately stick together and does not have the "feathers on the back of my hand" effect. At all. I've tried more flour and less flour without much success. Is this a common issue with this particular attachment? Dividing the cut pasta strands by hand is not fun, and certainly takes more than an hour. Any tips?

I have only seen that attachment in action once and it was cumbersome to me to deal with the pasta coming out of the machine so high up off the counter. Maybe if I propped the sheet pan up there it would have been easier. I like the control I have by cranking it myself.

Per Domenica, I had tons of semolina right where the pasta was coming off the cutters and immediately fluffed each batch with semolina, as if it was a salad being tossed. I would say that when the dough was on the sticky side, it required immediate attention to keep the noodles from sticking, so I would experiment with the amount of flour you add.

I'm sure some of our readers have some experience they can share about the Kitchen-Aid pasta attachment.

Loved today's article on Persian food - one of my favorites is tah-dig - I've tried to recreate it with little success and there are a million variations on the Internet. Can you help? Thanks!

Thank you! I'm sure Maziar can provide much more insight on the best way to make tahdig (which means, if I'm not mistaked, "golden crust" and can be made many different ways). But I wanted to point out that the previous reader's question about the dish of thinly sliced potatoes on the bottom of Persian side is one kind of tahdig.

Yes!  You and about anyone who's ever had tah-dig. Proper temprature and patience will be your best friends. Not too high to burn and not too low on temp and give it time. Tim is quite right about the thin potato slices.

What are the rules about posting recipes on the Internet, especially if you get a basic recipe one place and then make several changes to it. I think that if I get it from a food blog it's OK, but what about from a cook book? I always attribute where I got the original recipe from.

Here's an article we had some years back on the issue of recipe copyrights. The U.S. Copyright Office has advice as well.

Hi! Two questions about fresh pasta - I LOVE making my own, and have been for years, but always to use immediately. I've never had much luck drying it, whether I used cookie sheets, kitchen towels, laundry drying racks, etc. The suggestion to freeze is great, but what's the technique? Nests? Second question is in regards to cutting pasta - I've had my KitchenAid roller/cutter set for about 9 years now, and the cutters seem to be getting less and less effective - do the blades dull? Is there any way to remedy that? Thanks!

There's really not much to the technique. As you cut each batch and put it onto your cookie sheet, it starts to dry out. Toss each pile from time to time in semolina as you work. It's a good idea as you go along to weigh out the batches in whichever portion size you wish: 3 or 4 ounces, say. (When I filed the piece, I said 4 ounces and it was changed to 3, which just goes to show that I can use a bit of portion control.) When you're finished rolling, cutting and portioning, place the cookie sheet in the freezer, uncovered, until the pasta freezes. Then transfer the portions to freezer storage bags, making sure you have plenty of semolina in each bag. Since the pasta is frozen, it's easier to stack in the freezer. Cook it right from frozen. Those portioned bags in the freezer make your life so much easier down the road.

Don't know about the Kitchen-aid Blades. Have you asked their customer service folks? Readers?

How long can one keep olive oil before it gets rancid? I have a half bottle of Extra Virgin (expensive) oil that "smells funny". I don't exactly remember when I bought it; I buy it frequently, it seems to me. Also -- same question re: balsamic vinegar and other vinegars I don't use often -- apple cider, red wine, etc.

For olive oil, I turn to the Olive Oil Source, which writes:


"Lifespan can be as little as 3 months for an unfiltered late harvest olive bottled in clear glass and sold off a supermarket shelf above hot deli foods which is then stored by the consumer in bright light on a hot stovetop with the cap unscrewed. It can be as much as 3-4 years for an early harvest, high polyphenol containing olive variety which has been filtered then packaged in a well sealed tin or dark bottle then stored in a cool dark place by the grocer and consumer."


As for balsamic vinegar, I'll turn to the Vinegar Institute, which notes:


"The Vinegar Institute conducted studies to find out and confirmed that vinegar’s shelf life is almost indefinite. Because of its acid nature, vinegar is self-preserving and does not need refrigeration. White distilled vinegar will remain virtually unchanged over an extended period of time. And, while some changes can be observed in other types of vinegars, such as color changes or the development of a haze or sediment, this is only an aesthetic change. The product can still be used and enjoyed with confidence."

Hey guys, I've recently run across the idea of prepping a lot of your food for the week right after you go grocery shopping. I was surprised by how much you could do days in advance - things like chopping up your vegetables; I guess I just never knew I could chop them so far in advance. I assumed they would be bad by then. Is it safe to chop up a bunch of onions during the weekend if I know I'll need them in the week? What are some other foods that can be prepped? I feel a little silly for not having thought of this before.

I sometimes chop carrots, broccoli and bell peppers in advance, but not more than a day or so early. I might chop onions/scallions the night before, but I don't like to let them sit around too long that way. I think it affects the taste and pungency; also, chopped onions and peppers start getting a little slimy after they've hung around awhile. I'll make bread crumbs early and bag them. Sometimes i'll pre-mix the wet or dry ingredients for something I'm baking, then refrigerate until it's time to use them. Maybe other chatters can weigh in on their favorite things to prep.

This may be a ridiculous question, but the pasta recipes this week looked fantastic, and I was wondering if there was a way for those without the funds or kitchen space (like moi) for a pasta maker or full-sized food processor to make fresh pasta. I'm willing to put in the extra work, David has me convinced the experience would be revelatory! If I'm out of luck, what is the best store in DC to get fresh pasta from? Thanks!

Of course people made pasta for ages without the benefit of machinery, so have at it! Just uses smaller amounts to roll out into sheets, with which you can then make filled pastas, lasagna or noodles. Use a lot of semolina, loosely roll the sheets and cut into the width you like: taglierini, pappardelle, etc.

Vace in Cleveland Park sells some fresh pasta. To be honest, I haven't seen anything out there I thought was amazing. Maybe when Eataly comes to town...

I am looking to brew my own hard cider and was wondering if you had recommendations on where to find cold/UV pasteurized cider and any good vendors. I am willing to travel to any local farmers market, but Arlington or NW DC would be the best.

A lot of the cider I've seen around is pasteurized. Options include Quaker Valley Orchards and Twin Springs Fruit Farm.

Hello Maziar and all of the other food gurus!! I have recently moved from being a defrost-nuke-slather with condiments-masticate kinda guy to becoming a gourmet Crockpot/slow cook kitchen magician. Would you have any good recipes for slow cooked Persian vegetarian food, as I love Persian food but must be able to stuff it into a Crockpot to make my magic happen? And in general, any recommendations for great vegetarian Crockpot cookbooks? Thanks a ton!

My strongest recommendation for you is the persian cookbook "Food of Life" (by Najmieh Natmanglij). it is full of not only fantastic recepies and ideas also a great window into the persian culture, ancient and contemporary. Good luck and welcome to our foodie world.

Chef Maziar and Tim, so enjoyed the article today in the paper about persian cuisine. As a Persian, I find the food to be fragrant and flavorful. But when my friends ask for Persian food when they come to my house, I am often wary of making stews bc they are so unfamiliar to other palates. Do you ahve any suggestions on what the most popular dishes are for non persians and how to slightly adapt dishes? MERCI!

I say give your friends more credit. This is certanly what I discovered about Peacock Cafe clientele. You might be quite pleasantly surprised. I am so glad you enjoyed the article. I am thrilled.

I have to second Chef Maziar's advice. I think Persian cuisine will strike a chord with many non-Persians. Its fragrance and richness will appeal to anyone who enjoys good food.

Just wanted to say Hi to Chef Maziar and that I love Peacock Cafe! I really appreciate that you label gluten-free items -- makes it so much easier for me! Also, I'm an SFSU alum (M.A in poli sci) also!

Thank you fellow gator. Happy to do it.

hi guys! i need your help - my lovely, but crazy, husband promised 4 friends that he'd make them pici (a handmade pasta, popular in Tuscany) for a dinner. So now he (we) have to make enough pasta for 6 people by hand (every noodle is individually rolled). Fun! Can you suggest some good vegetarian sides / apps that we can serve that can be made well in advance and re-heated? Thanks!

This Goat Cheese and Pesto Bombe sounds intriguing.

I'm salivating over the lentil soup and qaymeh, and it's not even noon! I can't wait to try both. For the qaymeh, can you recommend a Middle Eastern store where I can buy the limes and spice blend? I am carless in Columbia Heights, so my possibilities are limited. (I won't insult the chef by asking for substitutions; the adviah looks amazing and is obviously not swap-out-able, and I can't imagine what could possibly replace dried limes.)

There are varieties of options online as well. You can purchase some of these right from the comfort of your home. I often don't find the quality as good as what I might find in a Persian store. I often shop in Vienna, Va., at Yas store bakery.

The Assal Market in Vienna also has a lot of Persian ingredients.

How do I get Advieh and dried limes for the Qaymeh and the preserved lemons for the lentil soup...if I don't live near a major city or in the DC area?? Can I substitute regular limes and lemons for these dishes? What is in the Advieh that I can get from regular spices on the grocery shelf? Thanks!!!!!!!

Advieh is a blend of spices. You may create your own depending on your preference.  As to ingredients, I even purchase some online from different sources and keep looking for better and better products.

I notice that the sauce in the Lemon Chicken casserole calls for 2T of rice flour. I hate to buy a package of rice flour for this measly amount -- okay to substitute regular flour?

Hm, not sure. Bonnie's the one who made it, and she's not here. I guess you could try it and let us know how it turns out!

Could you please elaborate on the 5 different kinds of onions you keep on hand and when you would use each one. I have at times used red, yellow, white, vidalia and green.

Sure. you have shallots, pearl onions,  scallions, chives, in addition to what you mentioned. Each of them can have their own appropriate use.

I highly recommend the Backyard Mint Ice Cream featured in Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams cookbook. Uses fresh mint leaves and yields a super refreshing flavor!

Agreed. I have made that very ice cream. Pretty much the only thing I did with my mint this year.

A sure fire way to get kids to eat their broccoli!  Also, I served this to kids recently and it was a hit- just go easy on the chiles. I generally use a store-bought mild enchillada sauce instead and that works well and saves time. 

Sounds good!

Can we please get the rice recipe?! I love the rice with little bits of sweetness (currents?) and almonds and the frizzled onions ... great article!

Funny you should ask. On Monday evening, I made Persian rice at home, because I figured some people would want a recipe. Later this afternoon, I'll post a step-by-step recipe based on the one in M.R. Ghanoonparvar's "Persian Cuisine" cookbook.


If you can't wait that long, here's a recipe for Persian rice from cookbook author Najmieh Batmanglij.

I was so pleased to see David Hagedorn's article about fresh pasta today, and I'm glad he gave it a second chance. It's one of my favorite things. When I've made it, during the rolling part, my dough often looks sort of wrinkly, which sometimes makes little folds. Am I doing something wrong or is this normal? It doesn't seem to cause a problem once I've rolled it a few times.

It sounds like the dough may be a little too thick feeding it into the roller. Maybe flatten it out a little more feeding it into each roller?

David Hagedorn...I loved the pasta piece and adding figs into the dish..YUMMY. On another note I hear rumors of a huge benefit you are creating that will consist of over 50 tops chefs in the DC area to support mariage equality. What's the scoop?

Thanks for the pasta kudos and for the opportunity to tell you about the benefit I am organizing. It is for the Human Rights Campaign to raise money for the marriage equality push in Maryland. It is quite an extravaganza: over 50 of DC's top chefs (Cathal Armstrong, Kaz Okochi, Erik Bruner-Yang, Ris Lacoste, Jamie leeds and many, many others) and mixologists (Todd Thrasher, Rachel Sergi, Gina Chersevani...) will be doing their thing at the Ritz-Carlton on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. Tickets are $300. There will also be music, fashion and an extraordinary auction with items based on the theme of two people joining together (A year of brunches for two is one item. Also a year of date nights for two in terrific restaurants is another. Dinner for 6 with chef Art Smith as your table host at Art and Soul is another item.)

Christopher Vazquez and Rick Davis of Amaryllis Floral + Event Design are transforming the Ritz ballroom for the event.

In addition to food and cocktail stations, there are 7 Personal Chef tables for auction. At these tables, duos of chefs (Bryan Voltaggio and Michel Richard are one team) prepare a 5-course meal for 8 people, with a personal sommelier in attendance, right in the middle of the action.

For those who want to support the cause but find the price too steep, there is an after-party at Graffiato from 10pm-1 am with a DJ, cocktails and food provided by Mike Isabella, Scott Drewno (The Source) and Teddy Folkman (Granville Moore's).

For more information and to purchase tickets, go to

Many more tricks up my sleeve for that night!

We are cooking dinner for my sister's birthday. She loves BBQ ribs (and my husband makes the best )...since it's not summer anymore-I'm not really interested in traditional bbq sides (potato salad, cole slaw, corn, etc.). Can you recommend side dishes I could serve with ribs for a fall dinner party?

I really like squash in the fall. We have some tempting recipes, including

Cranberry-Glazed Butternut Squash

Cranberry-Glazed Butternut Squash

Kale and Butternut Squash Gratin

Kale and Butternut Squash Gratin

Root Vegetable and Potato Gratin

Root Vegetable and Potato Gratin

FINELY chopped (minced), or pureed into a sauce or dish. My sister's kids will not eat anything green (took after momma). When I cooked for them when she was laid up from a car accident, I made spaghetti sauce (and they weren't allowed to watch). I took fresh spinach, cooked it down a with a little water and pureed it in a blender and put it into the spaghetti sauce. They couldn't tell the difference other than the color ... which I "lied" and said it was the spices.

Ah, yes, the sneaky approach. There are books and web sites devoted to that!

But get some perspective instead of calling it "frightening." This is not a new issue. According to your link, rice "has long been identified as a leading dietary source" of arsenic--no one's saying there's MORE arsenic in rice than there used to be. It didn't kill your mother or your grandmother; it's unlikely to kill your children. The FDA is NOT recommending we eat less rice; that's Consumer Reports. The wording of the advice on reducing consumption of rice is confusing; no one eats "1/4 cup of uncooked rice." A standard serving of cooked rice is 1/2 cup; 1/4 cup of rice, cooked, fluffs up to 3/4 cup.

I will typically cook a large piece of meat or several pieces on the weekend. For example, I will cook a beef roast to just over rare for Sunday dinner. After dinner, I will slice some of it into strips for fajitas and slice other parts into roast beef for sandwhiches. The day I cook the fajitas, i will marinate and quickly grill (60 seconds or so on each side over high heat). I do the same thing with roasted chicken on Sunday as well.

Yes, cooking some meats can give you a head start on several dinners.

The Court House farmer's market on Saturdays is decent as far as selection goes. I don't go to any other local ones so I can't compare prices. If it is cheaper than the markets in DC, it's probably not a lot cheaper and certainly wouldn't make up the difference in transportation cost (as the OP seems to indicate a reliance on public transit) or in time to get there and back.

Yeah, I shop there too. I do think the prices may be a little less than downtown, but you're right, it might not be enough to justify the Metro fare.

Maybe you already answered this, but the author said "you can use either dry or fresh herbs as long as you adjust the proportions" Not to get all harsh, but what the #$%@#!^ does that mean? More dry? More Fresh? Less dry? Please be more specific!

so sorry about the generality. you often substitute about a third or a quarter of the required fresh herbs in the recipe.

Do you know if they are cold/uv pasteurized or traditionally/hot pasteurized? I can't stand the taste of the traditionally pasteurized stuff and find the cold/uv much better. It is just hard to find out which process they use over the internet.

I don't think any of them specified, sorry. If you have that preference, you might want to contact them, or swing by a few markets. Cider season is in full swing.

Hi, is there a good source/book/blog for the wonderful variety of lightly pickled vegetable salads that are part of Persian and Middle Eastern cuisine? I love when I'm somewhere that has a selection as garnishing/sides, but really wish I could capture some of that endless bounty myself.

Of course. We have mentioned cook books  and stores that are recommended for such recipes.  It is well worth the time to invest for the trial and error to find your desired flavor.

Yes, check some of Chef Maziar's previous answers. He's recommended a cookbook by Najmieh Batmanglij and some stores in Vienna.

You can make rice flour by simply grinding uncooked rice to a flour consistency.

I don't have kids, but I'm vegetarian and have a hubby who barely ate veggies when we met! Here are a couple that he likes. Sautee greens (spinach or chard tend to be mildest) in olive oil and garlic. Add toasted pine nuts and golden raisins (soak raisins in warm water first). Salt and pepper to taste. Love it topped with goat cheese or gorganzola, but something milder like parmesan would also work. Or similar to above, greens and white beans. Mixing in fresh herbs, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice neutralizes any bitterness from the greens. I like to throw in black or kalamata olives too.

Good suggestions.

Can the pasta dough be kneaded in the processor or a kitchen aid and if so, how long do you suggest? The recipes sound wonderful enough to break my low carb diet-

I guess you could, but there is really no substitute for putting the heels of your hands into that dough. It's the feel of the dough that is crucial and a machine just doesn't give you that.

I second David's answer. I've made fresh pasta a number of times, and one of the most important things (I think) is knowing when the texture is right. You can only really do that when you're working with your hands.

I enjoyed David's article on making pasta today, because I've been making homemade pasta now and then for the past couple of years.  I agree that it's easier than you'd think, but making filled pasta can be quite time consuming.  Do you have recommendations for easy sauces for ribbon-type pastas? I particularly like pappardelle, though most pappardelle dishes I've had in restaurants include long-simmered meaty sauces -- I'm looking for something to throw together on a weeknight.

You can't go wrong with a basic, simple tomato sauce. The one in my recipe today for Eggplant Parmigiana Lasagna is really all-purpose. You could easily add browned sausage or other meat or seafood to it. you could also add a little cream for extra richness. 

The sauce in this recipe for saffron fettucine with figs, prosciutto and Cambozola sauce is also kind of all-purpose. You can switch out the cheese to suit your taste and omit the saffron. It's a simple, rich sauce that would go nicely with ribbon-type pastas to which you can add whichever vegetables and proteins you wish.

Any picks for delicious alcoholic, warm drinks for fall? I'd prefer something that I could make in a larger quantity for a party.

Most of our Spirits recipes are for 1 serving, but here are some ideas:

Apple Toddy

Gingered Rum Toddy

Hot Buttered Rum

Pumpkin Toddy

But the further you go, the cheaper it is Falls Church and Arlington are cheaper than Dupont, Burke and Oakton are cheaper than Falls Church and Arlington.

This would be an interesting graphic to do some day.

Farmers Markets tend to be priced based on market prices. The Washington area has 7 of 10 wealthiest counties. From the supply side, the washington region has had small truck farms, but most of the land in the Va and MD area was used for livestock, paritcularly raising feeder calves. This reduces the supply of local produce.

This cookbook has lots of great ideas for simple lunches and dinners to incorporate more vegetables. Spaghetti sauce is a great way to work in carrots, squash and even spinach with the food processor. I always bake shredded carrots and apples, or pureed pumpkin or squash into whole wheat muffins (the recipe in that cookbook is great for low sugar whole wheat muffins).

Good ideas all.

This is not a question, but an experience I want to share. I hate stuffing manicotti shells. I make a batter from flour, egg, water and salt. I cook them in a small, heavy frying pan. It is sort of a cross between a tortilla and a crepe. I fill them with a meatball type mixture, roll, and bake in marinara sauce. Absolutely delicious and so easy once the prep is done. This gave me the confidence to try making other homemade pastas, like egg noodles for chicken noodle soup, etc.

That sounds terrific! I often use the no-boil lasagna sheets (Barilla's are good), soften them in hot water until they are pliant and then roll them around cheese filling or other stuffing. Much simpler than stuffing those long, cooked manicottis.

I have the KitchenAid roller/cutters and love them. I haven't had much trouble with the pasta sticking together. When I'm cutting for the fettuccine/linguine I feed the pasta sheet in with my right hand and collect it on the way out by draping it over my left arm (pick it up with your arm right before it hits the counter). Once the strands are fully cut I arrange into rough nests. This method has never given me a problem once the pasta is in the water. While I'm writing - a question. I attempted some kale pasta with mixed success. Any tips for getting the kale fine enough that I can cut the resulting pasta into linguine? My last attempt only was able to get the kale to about the consistency of the basil in pesto. The pasta was great as lasagna noodles but impossible to cut into anything smaller.

Good info on the Kitchen-Aid. Thanks!

A questin about the kale: are you cooking it first and pureeing it? Could you elaborate a little, please?

Goods are priced according to what people will pay, not how much they cost to produce. Farmers find Washingtonians are willing to pay high prices, so they charge high prices. If we want lower prices, we have to enforce a limit on what we're willing to pay. That's the way the free market works. That said, the outdoor market at Eastern Market is now opening on Tuesdays. Originallly they said it would be a subset of the weekend vendors, but when my dog took me there yesterday (not my original plan) I noticed it didn't set up until mid-afternoon and the vendors were all Amish/Mennonite. The tomatoes I bought seemed to be somewhat less expensive than the ones I bought on the weekend. They had some good-looking pies and breads, and single-serving cakes and cookies, too. I assume the late set-up means they were mostly aiming for customers coming home from work.


Saute/roast chopped/shredded veggies with cumin and use as the basis for build-your-own veggie tacos with all the rest of the usual toppings. Hands-on, fun! Shave parsnips or summer squash into ribbons and treat them as you would pasta (or toss with fettuccine during the transition). And who doesn't love spaghetti squash?

I want to try this recipe this weekend, however are the walnuts a necessary flavor? Due to an allergy in the family, they cannot be included

You can leave the nuts out.

I'm finally ready to start making pasta. What is the first type of pasta I should try as a newbie? I don't want to get discouraged...

Start with this basic pasta dough and make fettucine served in a simple cream or tomato sauce.

I pulled some beets from my mother's garden and I want to roast them. Some are significant larger than others--ranging from about 1.5 inches to about 4 inches across. Should I cut the larger ones in half? I'm afraid they'd take hours to roast otherwise.

Yes, cut them into halves, or even quarters if that's what you need to make all the beets and beet pieces roughly the same size. Otherwise, you're in for some really uneven cooking.

Hi Free Rangers, I chipped the rim of my decantor (glass I believe, not crystal). Do you know where I could go to get the chip repaired? Thanks!

A colleague here just told me where her mom once got a chipped wineglass fixed -- at Woodward & Lothrop! Obviously they're not around anymore, but maybe someone in glassware at one of the big department stores can give you an idea. If you know the manufacturer, that might be another place to look for suggestions. If you Google "glass repair" you find a lot of do-it-yourself info about fixing chips, but I wouldn't chance it with an object you obviously care a lot about.

I had some great salmon the other day, and I was hoping someone might have a suggestion on how to replicate it. I think it was baked with a soy/miso/teriyaki glaze, but the edges were decliciously caramelized and the inside was still really moist. Unless I'm missing something, I don't see a similar recipe in the recipe search engine.

Well, here's our recipe for Chilled Teriyaki-Glazed Salmon. Maybe that will work for you!

Chilled Teriyaki-Glazed Salmon

What went "clink" in your luggage when you returned from your trip to Italy. Wine? Beer? Spirits? Amari?

Hmm. Well, that clinking sound may been a Trebbiano Spolentino, a white from Umbria. As well as some Sangrantino di Montefalco.

Regarding Bonnie... I doubt that she is 'celebrating' Yom Kippur but rather, is 'observing' it. Ask her tomorrow...

Yes, others have pointed this out.

Arlington and Falls Church are not any cheaper than Dupont (I've been to all). Try Delray. It's small, but a bit less expensive.

They ask you to fix Persian food for them so they can have a new experience, but you want to avoid exposing them to anything they haven't tasted before? Think about that for a minute.

I've tried making pasta several times. At first I had a hard time keeping it from sticking together after coming out of the machine. I've mitigated the problem by using copious amounts of flour (which makes my kitchen look like a flour explosion). But, the pasta still seems to stick together into a pasta blob when I try to boil it. Any tips for a novice pasta maker?

Try the freezer method outlined here earlier today. Use semolina  instead of AP flour because it won't absord into the dough as much. And it could be that your dough started off too wet in the first place.

I've always used unpasteurized cider from Heyser's in Silver Spring. They are very hygienic. I think unpasteurized cider tastes better fresh and I think that flavor comes through when I ferment it. You may also want to consider whether or not to use Camden tablets. I think the taste is better without them. If you carefully follow good sanitary practices, you'll have a good product.

For the person asking about baked goods recipes with coconut flour, google paleo baked goods - you'll get lots with coconut and almond flour. No chickpea, though.

Organic rice also has the arsenic residue. Arsenic is naturally occurring and the rice plant is efficient at absorbing it.

Well, I feel like I've been forced through a pasta roller and hung up to dry!


It's been a fascinating discussion today. Thanks to our guests, Maziar and David, for keeping it lively.


Our winners today are the reader who asked about cleaning the pasta machine (you'll get a signed copy of Mike Isabella's cookbook) and the reader who lives in the "middle of small town nowhere" and wanted to know where to score Persian ingredients (you get the "Little Flower" cookbook).


The winners should send their contact information to Becky Krystal at


See you next week!

In This Chat
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is the Food section staff writer. Joining him are interim recipe editor Jane Touzalin, editorial aide Becky Krystal, the Process columnist David Hagedorn, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin and Spirits columnist Jason Wilson. Guest: Maziar Farivar, chef and co-owner of Peacock Cafe in Georgetown.
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