Free Range on Food cooking Q&A: Vegetarian cookbooks and main-dish ideas

Aug 19, 2020

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your cooking questions. This week's chat is over, but you can submit questions for next week's chat here.
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Past Free Range on Food chats

Are you adding more meatless dishes into your routine? You’re not alone. 

We often hear from readers wanting more plant-friendly recipes, so today we're kicking off our chat with a reader query about vegetarian entrees. No salads or pastas, please, and limited  “meat substitutes (e.g. tofu, seitan), or mushrooms to create meat-esque dishes (e.g. hamburgers, sandwiches."

We did a run through our Recipe Finder and turned up creative recipes that should meet these requirements, including indulgent Cauliflower Sandwiches With Smoked Gouda and Peppadews, a so-popular Greek Lentil and Spinach Soup With Lemon and a filling Eggplant Stuffed With Onions, Peppers, Cheese and Nuts.

All are from Post food and dining editor Joe Yonan’s Weeknight Vegetarian column. Joe will offer more insights for this reader in his response in chat below.

Want more on the topic? Sign up for our free, 12-week Voraciously’s Plant Powered newsletter, in which food bloggers Sonja and Alex Overhiser share recipes, such as Turmeric Chick Pea Stew and Falafel Pitas With Cilantro-Cashew Sauce.

Another good place to mine for vegetable-forward, if not always vegetarian, dishes is Ellie Krieger’s Nourish column. This week, she featured a Beluga Lentil Salad With Vegetables and Herbs.

Maybe because it is summer when produce is so lovely, we’ve been wading into lots of vegetable-heavy options, rounding up okra dishes, radish recipes and no-cook salads.

Still, for the pescatarians -- or flexaterians -- among us, Becky Krystal whipped up a crab cake that is nearly all crab – as a crab cake should be.

We're here, however, to talk about any food or cooking topics you'd like, so let's chat.

Please note: We will give away a free, 30-day subscription to The Washington Post to the person who sends in our favorite comment of the week! (Already a subscriber? You can give the free month to a friend.)

I would like to introduce more vegetarian meals into my family's diet, but the cookbooks that I've reviewed frankly aren't very creative, interesting, or, most importantly, filling. The books are dominated by recipes for Salads, Sides, and Appetizers, and are incredibly light on hearty main dishes. Those cookbooks that actually do have a fair amount of main dishes rely quite heavily on meat substitutes (e.g. tofu, seitan), or mushrooms to create meat-esque dishes (e.g. hamburgers, sandwiches), or the recipes are just pasta with veg. There's a whole world of flavorful vegetables out there. Do you have recommendations as to where I can find a cookbook that provides hearty main dish recipes that are a meal onto themselves, that are tasty, and are able to satisfy a meat-eating family? Any recommendations would be quite welcome.

Hoping others will chime in, but among my top picks:

- "The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" by Deborah Madison

- "Cool Beans" and "Eat Your Vegetables" by Joe (duh!)

- "The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook" from America's Test Kitchen (I have used this one so much it's falling apart)

- "Ruffage" by Abra Berens

- "Plenty" and "Plenty More" by Yotam Ottolenghi

- "Afro Vegan" and "Vegetable Kingdom" by Bryant Terry

Are you all up for Indian fare? Basically any Indian cookbook will have lots of options for you. Joe recently spotlighted "Chetna's Healthy Indian" by Chetna Makan. I'm a big fan of "660 Curries" by Raghavan Iyer, which isn't all veg, but has lots of veg. Also Madhur Jaffrey!

In addition to Becky's ideas, have you seen "Whole Food Cooking Every Day" by Amy Chaplin? I love it so much, cook from it often (just made this AGAIN), and it would definitely qualify for your hearty-main-dish recipe request. Her cauliflower bakes are outstanding! A few other thoughts:

  • "The Heart of the Plate" by Molly Katzen
  • "Vegetarian India" by Madhur Jaffrey
  • "A Modern Way to Cook" by Anna Jones
  • "Fresh India" by Meera Sodha

 

 

It's an oldie but I use this book throughout the year but especially in summer/fall to make vegetable forward dishes. There are a few with meat or cheese but the majority of the recipes are vegan. I love this book.

I know we ran the gamut of cookbooks last week, but can you recommend Chinese or Japanese vegetarian cookbooks? Vegan is okay too. Thanks.

"Kansha" by Elizabeth Andoh is a gorgeous exploration of Japanese vegan and vegetarian traditions.

"East Meets Vegan" by Sasha Gill covers plant-based approaches to foods throughout many Asian cuisines.

I've been meaning to order an old book on Chinese vegetarian cooking from Eileen Yin-Fei Lo (whose "Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking" I really liked) called "From the Earth." Now you've pushed me to find it.

We've been having big salads every day but still won't be able to use it up before it goes bad. Any ideas on how to save it for later?

I would use that arugula to make soup and pesto that you can freeze.

arugula soup

RECIPE: Arugula Soup

RECIPE: Pasta With Arugula Pesto

RECIPE: Marbled Potato Salad With Arugula Pesto

Arugula Pesto! You can also wilt it down into a pasta dish, like this Goat Cheese and Arugula Pasta

The butchers at my fave grocery store are happy to spatchcock a chicken or turkey and wrap it in paper, no charge! Just ask.

Good tip. Butchers can save you a lot of time and effort in the kitchen.

We're moving soon, so I've of course been trying to eat through our freezer. One of the few things left are several bags of frozen fruit - I believe we have some strawberries, mangoes, and blueberries. Any suggestions on using them up a lot at a time? Didn't know if they would be good for a pie.

Is smoothie too obvious? Otherwise, I'd roll with this super simple, satisfying and, by the way, very popular cobbler.

any-fruit cobbler

RECIPE: Any-Fruit Cobbler

Hello Everyone - Your work always, but particularly now, has been a true refuge an delight. Thanks for a great food section. Because I must travel to see my husband. I am on a 14 day quarantine. DH did the food shopping before I arrived, which included buying a whole coconut. I love curries with coconut milk, but this has me stumped. I don't like coconut desserts at all, but wondering if you have any ideas for savory dishes that I can use this in?

You can grate the coconut flesh and add it to this dish, my family does that:

Zippy Green Beans.

As for the coconut water inside, just have a nice refreshing drink. 

I'm looking for some new containers to store my flours and sugars and am struggling to find the size that I like. Tall and more narrow seem sooo popular. I'm more interested in something that has a really wide mouth - I tend to make a mess, so I want something wide enough that I don't need to worry so much about getting it all over the counter. Any suggestions?

Yes, I recently stocked up on a bunch of wide, airtight Rubbermaid containers that stack well in my pantry. Plus, you can get different color lids to help you keep track of what's what (I also label them). Ordered from Webstaurant, which by the way is a great resource for anything culinary.

Last week, you recommended a book by Mexican chef Roberto Santibanez. I borrowed his book "Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales" from my local library, since I've been interested in trying to make tamales (I have lots of corn husks!). The recipe for tamale dough called for using a stand mixer to whip a large quantity of lard until it's fluffy. The recipes for various fillings called for cooking pork or duck for 2 to 3 hours. Maybe the women in rural Mexican villages are cooking the meat for hours, but I doubt that they have stand mixers. I already returned the book, and I think I'll stick with tacos, burritos, and quesadillas.

Oh, but did you try that technique? The best Mexican cooking teachers I know teach that the best way to make tamales is indeed to beat, beat, beat that masa until it's as light as possible. It takes a long time! I've made tamales for many years, and that's how my friend Pati Jinich taught me. But if you don't have a stand mixer, you can use a hand mixer -- it's just more tiring because, well, you're holding it, and seriously it can take 10 minutes of beating the masa dough, if not longer, to get to the point where a little pinch of it floats in a glass of water. (That's the test!)

You might enjoy his cookbook "Truly Mexican" more. It's all about the various building blocks of dishes. Here are a couple of recipes from it, for a taste.

Cooked Green Salsa (Salsa Verde Cocida)

Seafood guacamole

Hi Free Rangers - Chocolate chip cookie cakes are our birthday tradition, and I’m hoping to make an egg free version due to a food allergy. The Toll House recipe calls for two eggs; do you think I could substitute aquafaba (6T?) for both and have it turn out ok? And what if I double the recipe and make it in a sheet pan? I usually sub applesauce or oil, but am not sure they would work here, and would rather not use flax since we still need to be cautious in introducing new foods. Thanks so much for your insights. I read the transcript every weekend over my morning tea, and it’s a real bright spot in these crazy times.

I think the aquafaba sub would work OK, yes -- but I'm not so sure about doing that AND doubling it in the sheet pan. I mean, I don't think it'll be BAD, but you might want to start with a recipe that's designed to be vegan, like this great-looking one from Alicia Kennedy, who knows what she's doing.

For the past 6 months, I’ve been using every bit of my discard, especially with the flour shortage. A friend and I have been swapping recipes for breads, buns, crackers, and cakes. I tried your pizza dough recipe and loved it. I think it was the addition of whole wheat flour. Would I get the same chewiness with 00 flour? Anyway, it’s a keeper.

SO glad you loved the pizza dough recipe!! And my preferred flour is bread flour for it, however, I also tested it with APF, and 00 flour, and all methods work wonderfully. I wanted to make sure the recipe was adaptable to whatever you had on hand, given these uncertain pandemic times. 

The usual CSA question, what do you do with too much X? This week X is cucumbers (which I don't love in the first place) and green peppers (ditto). I can always roast the peppers and mix them in with other things, and we eat the cukes raw and chopped in salads, but it's hard to get through them before they start going bad.

You can stick some cucumber in gin or vodka to infuse and eventually update a gin and tonic, you can make raita, you can blend them up into a smoothie.

I bought a 1-lb bag of bright green Key limes. Now, many days later, the insides are still bright green and the juice is still delicious but the outsides are mostly brown, so much so that the limes look more like kiwis. My question is, is it okay to still use the zest in recipes?

While there's probably no reason not to use the zest, especially if it looks dry and not moldy or mushy, you may find that it's impossible to get much zest off the limes as the exterior has dried out. I'd still use the juice on the inside, though!

Submitting very early. I raise black-eyed peas and like to use some of them in their fresh shell form. Most recipes I can find on the internet are for dried black-eyed peas and I can't find anything that addresses substituting fresh shell beans for the dried and reconstituted. I don't believe fresh peas are equal to reconstituted dry peas but I'm just guessing when I make a substitution. Any guidance for me? Thanks for your consistent help.

I'm jealous that you've got fresh black-eyed peas at the ready! 

They're going to cook so much more quickly -- about 20-25 minutes of simmering after you bring them to a boil. So factor that in when subbing!

I like getting the big boxes of cereal at Costco. But, I wonder if they really stay fresh long enough - as I am one female. Can I freeze the bags they come in? Do you think it would last ok?

As someone who also buys bags of cereal at Costco, I can tell you that the sealed bags will last a very long time. Probably years unopened. Freezing cereal -- wouldn't do it. Will turn them soggy, I suspect. Once the bags are open, just roll them up and pop in an airtight container, at room temperature.

Hi! I made simple syrup (just sugar and water, no additional flavorings) a few weeks ago and have a bunch left in the fridge. How long will it keep? And any suggestions for ways to use it up? Thanks!

At least a couple of weeks, if not longer. I'd use to sweeten tea, coffee and cold brew. Without flavorings, not sure where else a plain syrup would shine. But you might be able to pluck some more ideas out of my primer.

simple syrup

ARTICLE: Making simple syrup really is easy. Here’s how to jazz it up with infused flavors.

Cucumber soup is great - you can make creamy and it's a lovely summer chilled soup.

Considering we’re in the kitchen so much more than pre-plague, I’m wondering if most Post Food writers and chatters wear gloves in the kitchen -- rubber or equivalent, for chopping and washing, not oven mitts. Have you found a kind or a brand that's less sweaty and awkward than others? I'm increasingly reluctant to pull gloves on and off a half dozen or a dozen times a day, between cutting meat and cutting veggies and again for rinsing dishes and washing knives. But if I don't wear them, I'm getting "dishpan hands." I'm also wearing gloves outside the home because of the plague and getting my hands all sweaty in them and of course that doesn't help. So please encourage me or tell me they make no difference. Thank you all!

I wear gloves when washing dishes and when shelling lobster. For the former, I use thick, cleaning gloves that go up to my elbow, or thereabouts, and for the latter, I use disposable surgical type. I use gloves for lobster shelling bc my skin gets itchy if I don't wear them :)  I wash A LOT of dishes... just this morning, I've been testing recipes, and washing, washing, washing.

I'm hoping to make a half-recipe at a time because I know I'll eat everything I bake and I don't want to tempt myself with three dozen cookies. When the full recipe calls for one egg, what can go wrong if I go ahead and use the whole egg in the half recipe? Yes, I can whisk one egg and add only half of that to the batter, but the unused half will probably go to waste.

Honestly, I think it's fine. Go ahead and use the whole egg! You might get a slightly more tender result or slightly more lift, but I doubt you would notice that if you compared that batch with one using a half. The other option is to make a whole batch and freeze dough or baked cookies for future times. :)

So I want to make the yogurt sandwich but have two questions. I have whole milk dahi on hand, but it’s obviously not thickened. I would just drain it to use instead of the Greek style right? Also, does the white bread fry better? We usually have whole wheat on hand and make grilled cheese with that.

That's right, re the draining. As for the bread, feel free to use whatever your favorite is for grilled cheese!

RECIPE: Dahi Toast (Grilled Yogurt Sandwiches)

My garden is in full bliss and I'm collecting a full bowl of cherry tomatoes every morning. Before, I would have brought all the excess at work to share with my colleagues, but now that I'm teleworking full time, I don't know what to do with it. I have a couple of pasta recipes, but we are getting a little tired with them. Do you have any new ideas (ideally without mushrooms as we hate them)?

Becky wrote up a whole list of recipes to use up tiny tomatoes! 


7 recipes to capture the massive flavor of tiny tomatoes

Can you freeze crab cakes?

Sure! I would do them after shaping but before you brown them.

Thank you! Those look perfect.

This is a terribly unsexy answer, but I have found so many great dinners from the Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers book. The recipes mostly rely on pantry staples, and there's nothing trendy or cool about it, but everything just tastes good.

I like the Moosewood books -- thank you!

I just brought home a couple of 2.5 pound lobsters for dinner. There will be leftovers. I have a vacuum sealer. I was going to seal and refrigerate the leftover meat and maybe make lobster salad tomorrow. Can I freeze the cooked meat? If so, I could wait awhile and make some lobster bisque when the weather turns cooler. BTW, I planned this dinner a few nights ago. I even got corn at the farmer’s market. When I got home from the store this morning with the lobsters, I saw your posts on steaming lobsters and lobster rolls. It’s like you guys have ESP! What a great resource you all are!

I don't know if freezing lobster won't alter its texture for the worse -- and it might become rubbery once frozen and defrosted. Not sure if anyone on the team has ever tried it though.

You can do it, but the sweet, tender meat suffers. I'd eat it up, if I were you.
Here's Olga's delicious lobster roll recipe.

Here is our story how to steam a lobster.

Last week (prior to your very timely article) I began re-organizing the pantry in my home (used to be f/t residence, now second home). I liken it to a search and destroy mission and I'm showing no mercy. How did I end up with 18 cans of black beans? Six bottles of ground cinnamon? A bottle of allspice that I know from the label expired 15 years ago? The answer is because my pantry was a total mess from years of hurrying to grab stuff, get a meal on the table and quickly stow groceries away when I got home from the store. Also hanging on to unused appliances and other minutia that I "might" want some day. I am not finished and I already feel better about my kitchen and am actually enjoying cooking in it (again)!

Good for you! Definitely a great time to get something like that done. I have fantasies about doing this in one fell swoop, but have been chipping away more a little at a time. Would like to at least re-alphabetize my spices!

Frozen fruit makes great jams!

This isn't exactly a cooking question, but it's a food question, and I hope you can help! I have mozzarella sticks from a takeout order that need reheating. I'm thinking maybe a 300 or 350 oven (I don't have a toaster oven) on top of aluminum foil, not too close to the heating element? How would you get the cheese warm in the center and re-crisp the outside without burning it up?

Yep, you've got the right idea -- at 350, the outside is not going to burn anytime soon. Should be able to get them hot inside within 10 minutes, maybe a little longer, depending on how big they are.

My family is about to go visit my in-laws, who are vegan and gluten free, for a month. We are not--in fact, we really love meat, dairy, and gluten. We don't want to have to make separate food, or to have them change what they eat. What are some recipes that are vegan and gluten free on their own but can easily accommodate meat, dairy, and gluten on the side?

Why not have a taco night? Corn tortillas are gluten free and you can have meat options for people who want that and vegan options for people who want veggies. Cheese as you like, etc. Here are some ideas: 

5 simple, summery tacos to get dinner on the table quickly

My partner is somewhat of a picky eater and tends not to like most foods we can cook at home. (I think this is, weirdly, partly a texture thing. He loves meat and some fresh fruits, will eat some veggies because they're healthy, and rejects most grains like pasta. No onions or cooked tomatoes, basically nothing mushy. He loves Indian food but we have never successfully cooked something like chicken tikka masala at home. If he could I think he would get all of his calories from milk.) The few things he does like (baby spinach + cherry tomato salad with a piece of meat; baked chicken thighs; BBQ baby back ribs) he will eat for a while and then get tired of. Pre-pandemic, he would manage by eating a big lunch in the cafeteria at work and then something small at home. That's obviously not working now, so he either gets a ton of calories from nearby takeout places or will just not eat very much (think: dinner is a handful of grapes), then wake up starving and try to make it up with crackers or cookies at 2am. This has become somewhat dysfunctional, and I would really like to find more meals we could make at home that he would be willing to eat. Any ideas? Cookbooks for picky eaters? A no-fail Indian cookbook for beginners? A smoothie recipe that packs a lot of healthy calories? Methods for creating meals out of half-takeout, half-homecooked? I know these chats are usually places for people who love food, so it's a bit tough to think about what to do for someone who basically hates food, but any thoughts would be appreciated! Thanks!

This is a lot to unpack!

You mention chicken tikka masala, so I'm going to nominate the butter chicken recipe I published a few years ago. So, so good, lots of raves.

Simple Butter Chicken

RECIPE: Simple Butter Chicken

I've never been let down by "660 Curries" by Raghavan Iyer. The Rasika cookbook is great as well. Ditto anything Madhur Jaffrey. I'm also a huge fan of local cooking instructor Rupen Rao, who has a couple of slim little cookbooks that are very approachable (ran his mango dal recently).

Lots of smoothie options in our Recipe Finder, maybe look for something with greens. :)

As far as half-takeout, half-homecooked my mind immediately went to something like fried rice, which can use all that extra rice and be customized to add favorite veggies and meat. Or rotisserie chicken, which can be transformed into chicken salad, enchiladas and more. 

Also, just to throw one more recipe your way, people really loved this one, which is pretty basic and flavorful. Serve with a whole grain or bread or salad, mix up the veg as needed.

Wine-Braised Chicken With Mushrooms

RECIPE: Wine-Braised Chicken With Mushrooms

Also please ask ahead of time if that's a thing he wants to do. If he's perfectly content with his eating right now, then he may not want to undertake this. 

I bet there are folks in this chat who have picky eaters in their households. Y'all have any advice?

If I were to make something like a curry or a sauce for Swedish meatballs, and stir in plain yogurt (not Greek) instead of sour cream, off the heat, would reheating the sauce on the stove later cause it to curdle?

Yes, most likely yes. If you want to use something of that sort in a dish and then reheat and not have it curdle during the addition OR reheating, then creme fraiche is your answer.

I'm a pretty comfortable home cook, but I'm intimidated by coconut milk. Never saw it or cooked with it as a kid; tend to want to eat on the lighter side and it seems super-caloric. But I do enjoy the Asian cuisines where it's commonly used, & it seems to pack a flavor punch in vegetarian & gluten-free dishes. Do you have any advice on how best to take the plunge & incorporate this "new" ingredient in my repertoire?

It's such a fantastic ingredient, capable of adding so much flavor and body to sauces and desserts. Next to the regular cans of coconut milk at the store you should see "light" versions, which will contain significantly less fat. It would work in a dish like this spiced chicken soup. That said, do give the full fat version a try at least once, perhaps in something like this cashew cake

The cake!

Lashings of hand cream. I do use gloves for washing up but I don't otherwise, and I'm always washing my hands and the sink etc because my husband is an omnivore and I'm veggie. Just keep putting on hand cream works a treat for me.

Me too! I started on it a few weeks ago, buying some bins to organize everything. But the things I found in the back of the closet. Items with best by dates of over ten years ago. Oof. I have a rule of thumb in the house that if I haven't missed needing something in six months, it goes (papers, etc). I need to apply it to food. Related, I also found a bag of sugar with a best by date of a couple of years ago, but research says sugar never spoils. Okay to use it?

As long as you don't open it and find a bunch of bugs, go for it.

What's the best way to store fresh cilantro so it lasts as long as possible? I've tried those green produce bags but within a few days some of the cilantro leaves get brown and mushy while other parts are still good.

I usually wrap in a very lightly dampened paper towel and place in a produce or ziptop bag in the veggie bin. There's also the strategy to stand up in some water in the fridge and cover with a plastic bag.

My mom does this and it lasts a really long time somehow: she cleans it (rinses and then picks out anything that's already dead), then lines a tupperware with paper towel and puts the cilantro in there. 

Becky's piece: How to make the most of your fresh herbs might help.

East - Meera Sodha You can substitute beans for meat in a lot of western dishes, if you have a favorite. One of my omnivore husband's favorites in WaPo's chicken Lyonniase. I make mine with a leafy green veg chickpeas. Sometimes use tempeh. It's really good. You an also sub tofu for meat in just about any Asian or SE Asian dish

Yes to "East"! (It's not out in the US until October, but it looks really great.)

Suddenly husband wants to do this dish, we've never tried it and upon looking we saw that "tian" seems to be very similar, can you tel us the difference? Which recipe would you recommend for beginners?

Traditionally ratatouille is more like a vegetable stew:

A tian involves layering vegetables in an earthenware dish called, in Southern France, a tian.

But, because both dishes can use the same sorts of vegetables, and because of the film "Ratatouille," in which a tian is made and called ratatouille, there's some confusion. That said, once you've sliced the vegetables, this recipe for a tian bakes in 30 minutes. Our recipe for ratatouille involves a bit more work, but it can all be done atop the stove. 

I found a home canned jar of pickled green beans that were so old the vinegar had put a hole in the lid. Yes, I did dump it, but as a natural born hoarder, it was hard to do. I will not tell the gift giver. They just got lost in the back of beyond.

No one has to know. :-)

I made the tomato tart yesterday. I’m not a kitchen novice by any stretch but it took a lot longer than the 2 hours 20 minutes mentioned at the top. I know such times are not exact and always figure it’ll be somewhat longer, but this was way beyond what I was expecting. I think it was because of the length of time it took for the crust to cool before filling. That said, it’s delicious. I used ricotta instead of mascarpone and a garlic herb combo from Simply Organics. (I don’t like everything bagels nor do I have most of the individual ingredients.) Only thing I’d do different is use more chives — I can’t taste them — and be a lot stingier in salting the tomatoes. Oh, and start an hour sooner!

I'm glad you enjoyed it! I really did time the recipe but of course people work at different paces and the environment of your kitchen can for sure affect how long it can take for something cool. Your tweaks sound good!

Everything Tomato Tart

RECIPE: Everything Tomato Tart

If it's not too hot feeling, that's my go-to for porridge.

Good suggestion.

How best to assemble a tuna melt (tuna salad, American cheese, tomato). Seems when I make these it’s a (glorious) mess. Thanks!

I don't have an answer for you, but for a giggle, google Marc Warner making tuna melt in a microwave. It's obviously tongue-in-cheek, but the internet lost its mind over it and the video was really funny.

I've never cooked scallops before but i've heard things can go south real quick with frozen ones. What is the best way to thaw and prep scallops for searing (to be used in a scallop and shrimp scampi)? thanks!

My experience has been to let them thaw in the fridge overnight, then before cooking, lay them out on paper towels and then cover with another layer of paper towels and get them to room temp for 20-30 minutes, so they cook more evenly. Salt, literally seconds before you add them to the pan (assuming you're searing them) ....  scallops cook very fast. So, high heat and a steady hand (and a little bit of self-encouragement!) will get you there. Here are a few recipes for inspiration! And good luck!!

Make quick pickles! Half white vinegar, half cool water, a pinch of sugar, sliced onions, fresh dill, or whatever flavorings you fancy. Leave overnight in the fridge. Will perk up even tired cucumbers.

Do you have any tips for grating nutmeg? I have one of those little, old-fashioned curved graters -- maybe 6" -- w/space to store the nut at the top. When the nut gets smaller, I'm afraid of grating my fingers, but also hate to waste those last little curved bits. Is there any way to use the little end pieces (thinking how I'd put a used vanilla pod in sugar...) Thanks!

I use a Microplane zester, which lets you use a lot of it before you're done. But, yes, better to be careful and just give up on the last bit. You could use the nubs to make a flavored simple syrup or toss it in a soup or stew (to be removed at the end) for flavor. Or steep it in cream for ice cream. Or toast and combine with other whole spices to steep tea and make your own chai.

So, first of all, 100% agree with Becky: Try a Microplane for grating nutmeg - you will never look back! Secondly, when I get to that nub, I put on a Microplane glove (also useful when slicing things on a mandoline!) and it protects me from hurting myself :)

If you halve a large enough pantry to lose things in the back, it sounds quite large and I am envious!

Right! Me, too.

Seeded or seedless -- Different tastes or the same?

SEEDLESS = TASTELESS!

OK, maybe not entirely tasteless, but I have never tried a seedless watermelon that had nearly as much flavor as seeded varieties -- which, thankfully, you can still find at farmers markets if not at grocery stores. Honestly, I won't buy a seedless one if I can help it -- although I bought one by mistake recently, and ... yep, tasteless. It reminded me of the fact that watermelons and cucumbers are relatives, and not in a good way. Who wants a watermelon that tastes as bland as a cucumber?

Here's an old Food piece on the topic.

I could never store cilantro very well, counter fridge, etc until I accidentally hit upon my ‘method’. I wash all the cilantro so it’s ready to use, shake off the excess water, rap the stem end in slightly dam washcloth (ones for the kitchen) and place in an old disposable plastic ice cream tub, rectangular. Keeps over a week like that!

Make pickles of various sorts, and relish.

I made an adapted dahi sandwich with some harissa paste and mango chutney whisked in - it was superb.

I can just imagine! OK, adding to my list.

I have an idea for deveganize. My husband loves meat and I'm veg. I make a saucy recipe that has say chicken and would work well with beans or other veg protein - that way you two pans with nearly the same thing in them, it's really no more work. If you and your in laws like Indian - that would be so easy to do.

Sliced? Peeled? Or drop in whole cukes?

If he can eat normally in the cafeteria at work or restaurant take-out, it sounds like he just doesn't like home cooking. Maybe this is question is better suited for Carolyn Hax, but don't make this your problem.

I almost went there! I can see both sides, wanting to help if both parties are willing but also not wanting to have to pick up tons of extra cooking work, if that's not desired.

In our case, part coat closet, part food storage. Getting professional shelving is a godsend.

Mexican food is extremely, even extraordinarily, labor-intensive. I spent several years there in the 1980s and anyone who could, had a blender to help things along. But even then, it often took hours of work to develop the complexity of a dish. No doubt restaurants and homes that can afford to, have purchased stand mixers since they came on the market. But that won't hurry along the slow process of many dishes. So, now that you know, please appreciate the cooks and chefs at Mexican restaurants and even the companies that do a decent job of making frozen Mexican foods -- they really do amazing work.

There's a reason people have tamaladas -- tamale-making parties. Many hands and all.

But I'll also say something I've said many times before: Mexico is a large country with a huge diversity of cuisines (plural!), so I never find it quite right to paint all of it with one brush. There are absolutely some labor-intensive dishes, but there are also plenty of quicker recipes beloved by modern, time-starved cooks. Pati Jinich's book "Mexico Today," among others, shows this beautifully.

Wait - so I can pick up a refrigerated plastic-wrapped small whole chicken from the refrigerated section of the grocery store, then hand it to the butcher and ask him to spatchcock it for me? That sounds great! I just don't want to look like an idiot..

You can ask in your grocery store. I bet they would do it. I confess, I'd be more likely to try it when buying a fresh chicken from the butcher.

This happens a lot to me because use half an egg in my caesar salad dressing recipe. Half a whisked raw egg apparently lasts three days in the fridge, and I've never had a problem. I use it for scrambled eggs and 'breading' eg chicken lyonnaise. I also use it to make an impromptu veg bake in the oven with cheese and milk.

Good to know! I'm definitely too lazy to deal with storing and trying to use half an egg so I'd probably be more in the throw it all in camp, haha.

Try tzatziki! It's one of my summer favorites. I like to use Greek yogurt, lots of garlic, and seed the cucumbers first to get some of the liquid out. Then just salt & pepper for me, though I know oil & dill or mint are traditional.

Of course! It's fantastic.

My CSA keeps delivering bok choy, and I...don't love it. It's boring (to me) sauteed, and apart from using a small bit in stir fries, two heads is just TOO MUCH in our household of two to use up quickly. So - do you have a few recipes for me to use?

I've had the supermarket butcher many times chop a chicken into bite-size pieces for me. But not since COVID19 came along ...

Versatile too, I used jasmine rice and jalapeño. Sure helped having a curry leaf plant though!

You must mean this one that I highlighted in my okra roundup? So jealous of your curry leaf plant. My husband is obsessed with them, I think I need to acquire one.

Okra Pilaf With Turmeric and Curry Leaves

RECIPE: Okra Pilaf With Turmeric and Curry Leaves

It seems like we're all in the same boat. We want to make the most of our summer vegetables. Lots of good advice and recipes today.

We're going to give our free, 30-day subscription to The Washington Post to the reader who inspired the theme for this week's chat: Vegetable-forward/Vegetarian Cookbooks

Please send your email to Kari.Sonde@washpost.com to get your free month. If you already subscribe, send her the email of a friend who might enjoy the free month.

See y'all next week.

In This Chat
Ann Maloney
Ann Maloney is the Food team recipes editor.
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and author of "Cool Beans." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer at the Post.
Kari Sonde
Kari Sonde is the Food editorial aide.
Mary Beth Albright
Mary Beth Albright is the Host and Editor of Food Video at The Washington Post.
Daniela Galarza
Daniela is a Food staff writer.
Olga Massov
Massov is a Food team assignment editor.
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