Free Range on Food cooking Q&A: Here's what readers want to cook this fall!

Sep 16, 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

Thanksgiving. The thinking about it, planning, combing through favorite recipes, deciding on what new thing to add to the menu, the list-making, the pie-baking, the table setting and the aromas that will fill the house and wrap themselves around us. Thanksgiving, come and get me!

We are feverishly working on our Thanksgiving plans. We have lots of goodies coming your way. We are hearing many people say they are expecting to have smaller celebrations due to the pandemic. We plan to address that, too.

I would love some Crock pot ideas, especially those that can be scaled to a smaller pot (3-4 quarts) and soups. I’ve never actually done soup that way and am ready to try new things.

Not sure when you will publish them, but please a few weeks in advance?

Yep, we will! Our big T-giving print section is Nov. 18, but we'll be pubbing recipes the week before.

I adore heirloom tomatoes and was happy to find a few last weekend at a farmer's market. It seems a crime to do anything other than eat them raw. I've had tomato sandwiches for dinner for the past several nights.

I agree. They are so good just as they are.  Just a sprinkle of salt and olive oil? We did, however, have this feature: The best summer tomato salads use just a few ingredients to generate big flavors
You might find a new favorite there, especially for when the tomatoes are not in their prime.

Well that post just super bummed me out- I hadn't started thinking about the holidays yet but as someone who will be spending them the way I've spent the entire pandemic (alone, at home), I'm not looking forward to any of Nov or Dec. Sigh.

I think many people feel the way you do. It's really tough. We'll do our best to provide you with good food that you can make for yourself. 

Can you please provide the names of pumpkins best for recipes?

There are a bunch of varieties you might find at your market or farm stand. They also happen to have great names! Options include Jarrahdale, Long Island Cheese, Cinderella and Peanut.

What will you miss most about summer cooking and eating? Will it be the CSA boxes overflowing with zucchini and red, ripe tomatoes? Or maybe you will miss having an excuse to indulge in ice cream pies.

Summer officially ends on Sept. 21. Yes, the season's luscious produce will linger a bit longer, but seeing that date draw near, we thought this was a great time to look back at favorite stories and recipes, including cocktails for this often stressful summer.

Why not revisit some of these dishes while the days remain mild? Our readers’ favorites from the hot months included a varied selection, such as no-bake chocolate cream pie, homemade bubble tea and dahi toast (grilled yogurt sandwiches).

If you have last-gasp-of-summer produce, we can help you make the most of it. We dug deep into produce, creating guides to selecting and cooking fresh corn, versatile eggplant and buttery radishes. Cathy Barrow taught us how to can tomatoes and food writer Ali Slagle gave us fresh ideas using them in simple, creative salads

Nourish columnist Ellie Krieger proved that we could keep our cool and still stay healthy with Chocolate and Tahini Dipped Frozen Banana Pops and two-bite Mini Cherry-Vanilla Sorbet Sandwiches.

And for imbibers, we gathered batch cocktails that you can make, refrigerate and then sip throughout the week.


We want to do the same with the coming season. That is provide primers and fresh recipe ideas that meet your needs. What are you most looking forward to eating? Apples, squash, hearty stews and soups? Tell us how we can help you enjoy cooking in autumn.


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? Thanks! You can give the free month to a friend.)

Nothing says "Autumn" in the Caribbean as fresh avocados and bread fruit...cant wait to do a cod & breadfruit escabeche with beautiful avocado on the side. Glad I will spent Autumn this year in this part of the world!

Man, do I love bread fruit! I am sad it's not easily found Stateside, because it truly is glorious. 

I have Copious amounts of porcini, shiitake, and wood ear mushrooms. What are your best dishes and recommendations for usage ?

Jealous! Those would be absolutely wonderful in the hot and sour soup recipe I ran last year. They will truly shine, also because you double up on the mushroom flavor by using the soaking liquid as part of the broth. Wow, really craving making that now!

Takeout-Style Hot-and-Sour Soup

RECIPE: Takeout-Style Hot-and-Sour Soup

I immediately also thought of risotto. Here's a conventional stovetop version, but you could also use them in Olga's Instant Pot recipe.

Porcini Risotto

RECIPE: Porcini Risotto

Instant Pot Risotto

RECIPE: Instant Pot Risotto

Last week, a reader asked us about Giraffe Cake from "Joy of Cooking."

He wrote: "In an old JoC, probably from the 1950s, there was a recipe for something they called Giraffe Cake, attributed to my Grandmother, Mina Mayer. The family copy of the cookbook has disappeared. Interestingly, no one remembers this particular cake, as my Oma was known In St. Louis for her Dobos torte, her Esterhazy torte (also known as Prinzregententorte) and her Christmas cookies. Anyone happen to have an edition that includes this recipe?"

Joe Yonan sent out a query to the cookbook editors and got a response. We hope that same reader is here this week. Here is the answer from John Becker, great-grandson of Irma S. Rombauer. 

"Giraffe torte was ... easily found on page 650 of the 1951 Joy — Irma’s (Rombauer), last, and the only edition to include the recipe.

"Marion's (Rombauer Becker) ground-up revision in 1963 cut back on the number of torte recipes, and it looks like the giraffe number was 'sacrificed' n order to keep the classics (linzer, dobos, etc)."

The Joy of Cooking author provided it in this link here. If you have trouble viewing it, send us an email at and we'll

Why do you publish so many recipes with weird ingredients that a lot of people don't have and don't have access to? I get that people like international food, but with money tight, buying some weird Asian spice to try one dish and maybe only once is a waste of money. By the way, I commented that your recipes to save for rent were too expensive. Having a newspaper subscription is my idea of a splurge

Thanks for your thoughts, but I wish you would reexamine your concept of "weird." Frankly, I find it offensive to hear this way of thinking about cuisines that are certainly very familiar to plenty of people (because, you know, it's their native cuisine!), even if they're not as familiar to you. Now, especially, is a good time for all of us to check our assumptions about what is "normal" or "standard" or any of the other code words for -- let's be honest -- white!

Having said that, know that we are always also trying to provide recipes that are accessible, and to provide substitutions for ingredients we think many readers might not have. And we'll continue to look into that. Also know that so, so many things are easy to get in this day and age, what with the Internet and all, and that we'll try to remember to give you ideas for other ways to use things that we think are absolutely worth having.

I made smitten kitchen's tomato tart this weekend and it was delightful-but now i have an entire container of pesto remaining. tips for using pesto that is not pasta? can i freeze the pesto in small quantities and reuse?

Yes, pesto freezes very well! I do it all the time.

Pesto is great spread onto a sandwich or pizza. You can serve it with a wide variety of roasted meats or vegetables. Thin it out with a bit more oil and drizzle it over a pureed vegetable soup.

I freeze pesto in ice cube trays and add it at the last minute to tomato soups. I'm also delighted Deb pubbed that tomato tart - one of my dearest friends wrote the novel, which inspired the tart — and agreed, it's delightful!

Use (or drizzle) “a good olive oil...” as if I’d intentionally select the bad one (!) Is it country/ies of origin, extraction method, type of olive? Or some other mysterious factor ? Please tell us how many different olive oils are optimal in a small kitchen. Also, how to store so they continue to taste special. Thanks much

Hi, I understand how you feel. Flavor and price are two factors. I keep mine in a pantry cabinet. Usually, I have 2 olive oils in my kitchen. I have a large bottle of extra-virgin olive oil -- usually Bertolli -- that I use for cooking and salad dressings.

I also usually have a smaller bottle of olive oil that I use when the oil plays a starring role. (For drizzling say on a terrific summer tomato, for example.) Right now, it's a little bottle a friend brought back from Italy. It might be one I find in a specialty shop. I just like to taste and experiment.

This story -- Olive oil options can be dizzying. Which is best for you? -- might be helpful.

And lots of folks have done tastes tests, including America's Test Kitchen.

Also, Becky wrote on on smoke-points for oil that may be interesting for you to read.

Hi rangers: Thx for the piece on challah but I'm firmly *not* in camp sweet. I haven't made challah in years but was volunteered to make it for a rosh ha-shana picnic on Friday. I like the olive oil and orange version on Olga's website and I'm a huge fan of overnight slow rises. Olga, is that still your recommendation? Can I do an Everything Bagel seasoned version or would that be wrong?

Hi there! First of all, Shanah Tovah, and wishing you a healthy and joyful year ahead! Secondly, overnight slow rise for challah is fantastic for crazy schedules (I love doing mine this way). And everything bagel seasoning sounds wonderful -- one of my sisters-in-law did that with her challah last week and loved the results. Have a wonderful celebration.

I seared some bok choy and chicken in oil in my stainless steel skillet. The food made burn marks and I am unable to remove them. I boiled water and baking soda in the pan but that didn't help. I boiled a mixture of water and vinegar and that did remove most of the burn with vigorous scrubbing using a wood spatula and a scrubby, but some burn marks remain. Do you have any ideas as to how I can remove the last bits? I've never not been able to remove all of the marks.

I would give Bar Keepers Friend a try. It really can make stuff look like new. Check out the two sides on the skillet I used it on here from the Food Lab.

bar keepers friend

ARTICLE: One cheap product will change the way you clean in your kitchen

My CSA share delivered a few Asian pears last week. They are hard as a rock -- how do I determine when they are ripe? (They're not behaving like Bosc or Anjou in terms of softening up.)

Unlike those other varieties, Asian pears need to ripen on the tree, so they should be ready to eat now. They are by nature firm and crisp, though also juicy.


ARTICLE: Pears are the unheralded stars of the fall fruit bounty. Here’s how to choose and use them.

I got a bit carried away with my herb/spice order and now I have a few little jars of things I've never used before. Could you recommend a few things using garam masala that aren't high on the burn your tongue scale? I recognize all the components, but not sure how to approach the combination. Thank you!

You bet. Garam masala is not typically a spicy blend -- more spiced, than spicy -- so you shouldn't have a problem finding lots of ways to use it. Here are some ideas from our database.

Simple Butter Chicken

RECIPE: Simple Butter Chicken

Garam Masala Roast Chicken

RECIPE: Garam Masala Roast Chicken

Chickpea Tikka Masala

RECIPE: Chickpea Tikka Masala (the cayenne here is optional)

Eggplant and Cauliflower Masala Salad

RECIPE: Eggplant and Cauliflower Masala Salad

Dorie Greenspan's Sheet Pan Chicken With Apples and Kale

RECIPE: Dorie Greenspan's Sheet Pan Chicken With Apples and Kale

Just wanted to tell the Rangers that you are worth every penny of my WAPO subscription. With all the turmoil in the world, both natural and man-made, cooking and knowing that I'm taking care of my family is my escape and my therapy. It started out with lots of old favorites, branched into new worlds and now that here in the northeast the weather is starting to cool, I have bags and bags of frozen vegetable scraps that I'm turning into lovely broths and stocks as I start thinking about soups and stews. AND, a special shout-out to Joe for the fabulous Roasted Potato and Black Bean Chili that is my newest go-to for a quickish (gotta roast the taters) pantry friendly supper and even wows my casual dinner guests (socially distanced of course) vegan or not. Right now I'm not dreading going into fall and winter with Covid-19 waiting around every corner. But that can change, so I'll keep tuning in and keep the food coming!

So glad you are appreciating our work -- we're so glad you're here with us!

And so happy that you like that recipe, too! It's a keeper!


Hi! I'm heading out to the mountains with a group of folks in my bubble (six adults, one pre-teen), and I'm on for dinner one night. I'd been thinking chicken enchiladas or meatball sandwiches or Italian beef sandwiches -- all of which I can prep here, and they travel well and can spend the night in the fridge. But then I found out that two of the folks are keto. I know nothing about that except that it's low carb, which shoots down all of my ideas. It's questionable how "keto" they actually are, but do you have some suggestions? Chili has already been claimed for another night, and I'm not a fan of noodle-less lasagnas. Thanks for your help!

Hello, why don't you ask your keto friends for suggestions? I bet they have recipes, or at least ideas, that they could share with you.

In the meantime, I wrote about one dish that received lots of good feedback from readers: Pork Chops and Cabbage With Mustard Cream Sauce. You could make the chops and sauce  and then the cabbage, store them separately and assemble once you get there.

Hello rangers! I have the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking book, and it seems like no matter what I want to do I don’t have the right ingredients. For example, there’s a blueberry buckle coffee cake that specifies whole wheat *pastry* flour along with all purpose, and a peach coffee cake that calls for white whole wheat and all purpose. I have AP and Einkorn whole wheat. Is there a reason I can’t just use that? Seems to me a coffee cake would be more forgiving, but maybe I’m missing something. If a sub is OK should it be one for one? I can’t see buying so many kinds of flours. I mean, I like to bake, but not *that* much!

I really like and trust King Arthur's recipes -- I find that they're well-tested and work as written. But I also like to play around with recipes, and, as you say, it's difficult to keep every type of flour in my pantry at all times. I would try that peach coffee cake recipe with AP and Einkorn, with the knowledge that the cake may turn out darker or more dense than if you made it with white whole wheat. That said, it might have more flavor, too! Let us know how it turns out!

As we are preparing take our first vacation in the COVID era, I am thinking of what to bring to our rental house for cooking? Do you all have a good knife, cutting board, or other items that are cooking essentials for you? Also, regarding cleaning - do you wash the pots, pans, plates, etc. before using them?

First, if you can, I would check in with the rental agency/owner to see if they have an inventory of what's there. They really ought to -- and I think they would so they can easily keep track if anything goes missing.

There's not too much I care that much about other than, as you say, a good knife. If you have a chef's knife you like, honestly that's probably all I would bring. I used to go bonkers bringing stuff -- I have even brought an ice cream machine (pre-kid lololol), and I know some people will travel with their sourdough starter!

As far as particular knives, I have a Wustof I like at home, but I'm also a fan of the relatively inexpensive Victorinox chef's knife. It's maybe $40 so if you are in the mood to pick something up that won't break the bank and you won't be too worried about losing etc., go for it.

I'd say maybe the only other thing I would consider bringing is a good 12-inch skillet if you're particular about that kind of thing. A lot you can do with it. 

Otherwise, I just make do with what's there. We're lucky in that our house we typically rent in Rehoboth has a beautiful kitchen that is extraordinarily well stocked.

As far as cleaning, honestly, pre-covid, I never washed before using, unless something looked sketchy. Now, though, I'd probably do it.

Here's a vacation week roundup of pretty simple recipes you might like.

vacation rental

ARTICLE: A week’s worth of dishes to make in your vacation rental this summer

Coincidentally I made a tamarind recipe last week just as your article came out. I've used tamarind in the past in the form of a thick paste. This time I had concentrate (a pourable version like you recommend in your pad thai recipe) and substituted it for the paste called for in the recipe on a one to one basis (one tablespoon for one tablespoon). The final dish was inedible. Is there another way I should be making the substitution? If I had never cooked with it before, I would be tempted to toss the whole bottle based on how bad this one dish turned out.

It's definitely confusing because paste and concentrate are sometimes thrown around somewhat interchangeably. My guess is that what you used was a lot more concentrated than the paste (did it also have salt?). Next time, if you're using the concentrate in a recipe that calls for paste, start by using a lot less. I don't know the exact math but maybe half as a baseline?

Add a little vinegar and you've got a version of chimichurri, an Argentine concoction that is great on steak -- and other things.

I overbought when making a WaPo icebox cake - the one w/sprinkes. GREAT. Any ideas/recipes on how to use this? I don't have an ice cream maker.

use it for my tiramisu recipe, which we just published minutes ago :) You don't need a lot of it, but it's still using some. I think, also, one of life's most underappreciated pleasures is lightly sweetened whipped cream with strawberries!

And I'll plug my scones!

British Scones

RECIPE: British Scones

I'm looking to make a fruit crisp/crumble and I want the topping to have large soft clusters. It seems most crisp/crumble recipes tout their crispy toppings. But I truly prefer the clusters to be soft. Two questions: how can I best achieve large soft clusters? and, what would the difference in texture be between butter and oil? Thanks!

Increasing the amount of fat proportional to the amount of sugar and flour will ensure a softer crumble topping, whether you use butter, coconut oil or another type of oil. In the event that you're making a crumble with under-ripe fruit, or fruit that will take awhile to cook, consider pre-cooking it in a skillet on the stove -- simmer it with a bit of butter, pinch of sugar and lemon juice -- to break it down so that the crumble topping doesn't spend too much time drying out in the oven.

You all are awesome for tracking this down! And it sounds like fun to make.

My pleasure -- I have John Becker to thank! He and Megan are such pros.

Your roundup of six affordable recipes was pretty roundly panned in the comment section for being tone-deaf and out of touch. I'm not going to pile on, but it occurs to me you have an opportunity here. Take a set low amount of money ($20?) and give us recipes to eat on for a week. $20 (or whatever) has to cover every meal, snack, and nibble. (I'm fortunate that it's been long enough since my own extremely poor days that I don't actually remember what my budget was. I might've had only $15, but it undoubtedly stretched farther back then!) Obviously, some of that's going to be spent on peanut butter and cheap bread and other stuff that doesn't need a recipe...but there's an opportunity to develop or distribute some *truly* inexpensive recipes. How can you make beans and rice or pea soup or some sort of pasta dish as cheaply as possible and yet not have it taste like poverty? What can you do to make the canned vegetables from the food shelf not taste like, well, canned vegetables? What spices should you splurge on because they last a long time and perk up the same boring meal you've been eating for eight straight days? Stuff like that. There was a lot of derision in the comments and, honestly, I agree with the main point they were making (even if I thought they could've been a bit more generous with the benefit of the doubt), but I know you meant well, so maybe this is a good chance to really talk to the truly poor. There are a lot of people who could use THAT recipe round up this year, I'd bet.

It really wasn't meant to be a list of "recipes for poor people," just affordable recipes, and I was trying to avoid the usual beans and rice advice. People already know about beans and rice--they don't need me telling them. I could have and should have been more explicit about that!

Good idea!

Not only do we have three flavors of Tabasco, plus Tapatio, but we also have various local sauces from around the Caribbean, many with habanero. Oh, and bacon-flavored hot sauce! Suggestions for clearing things out, besides a Bloody Mary bar?

So good.

Loved the story about people's favs. Condiments are one of the things that make life living, as far as I'm concerned. I'm a sucker for anything with chiles and ones that use up quantities of the herbs I grow. Made this week: Za'atar, salted Hunanese chiles, and sage/rosemary/fennel herb rub. Question: What's your favorite thing to do with za'atar?

Hello, glad you like the story on our favorite condiments. If anyone missed it, you can find it here: Staff picks: 8 condiments we swear by and how to use them.

If you go into our Recipe Finder, you can find lots of ideas. Search for za'atar.

Try this simple one: Za'atar Salmon With Charred Broccolini, which turned out great.

I cook a lot and just don't seem to get to the off the cuff stage with tempeh. I can follow a recipe, but would love to get more comfortable with it.

I wrote just that a few years back. Take a look and see if this helps. I'm a fan!


To the poster commenting about “weird” ingredients: As a born-in-the-USA American of Indian heritage, I find many “traditionally white American” ingredients “weird” too, like mustard. Let’s keep the racism out of posts, shall we? And thanks, Joe, for your spot-on response and for everything you and Food section writers do. Love your work and this chat each week. Thanks

This. Yes! Thank you for being here.

My daughter collects giraffe items. Figurines, t shirts, hats, socks, coffee mugs, golf club covers, earring, you name it, she's got it. She will be over the moon to know there is such a thing as a Giraffe Cake. Thanks for the link!

Glad to provide! 

I soaked dried chickpeas for your roasted tomato and chickpea curry recipe (one of my favorites!), going over the recommended time on the box; but, they were still pretty "crunchy" in the center. Box recommended 6-8 hours or overnight, I left mine soaking for 36 hours. What can I do to get the center less crunchy? Do they just need longer? Should I boil them?

Can you clarify? Did you actually cook the chickpeas after soaking? If not, that's your answer! The chickpeas should be fully cooked before they go into the curry, as they're only in there for about 10 minutes. So soak and then boil and then make the curry. Here's Joe's Simply Perfect Pot of Beans for more tips.

Roasted Tomato and Chickpea Curry

RECIPE: Roasted Tomato and Chickpea Curry

Is this the same as Vanilla extract? I have a beautiful bottle a friend brought me (pre covid) from the Dominican Republic and not sure how to use

This could be the same thing, but does the bottle have a list of ingredients? If not, it may be impossible to know. Essence can be a synthetic product, so you'll want to look for real vanilla or vanilla beans in the ingredient list, along with alcohol, which is used in extract to distill the flavor from the vanilla beans.

We order sea salt from a place in Maine that we love. We have multiple salts, each in its own labeled grinder. I've begun to suspect that these things don't work as well as they once did. Are jammed salt grinders a thing? I checked the website of the place we purchased our salt from and didn't see any directions for unclogging salt grinders. Maybe I'm just imagining that the salt isn't coming out as it once did? I know I can Google this problem, but I wanted to ask you experts first if you've encountered this, and what you did to resolve the problem. Thank you.

I find that salt and pepper grinders can jam, yes, when small particles get stuck. If you're able to take apart your grinders, try seeing if there's any buildup. 

Can I cut the sugar by a quarter cup without hurting the batter of the any-fruit cobbler? I find it too sweet relative to the fruit, especially when I make this with peaches, and don’t want to sugar the fruit, which is already sweet enough.

I think that's probably okay! Less of an issue with this recipe, since it's basically a pour and bake batter, but always important to keep in mind that sugar is never just for sweetness. In baking, it's important for browning, moisture and rise. I swear I'm going to write something one day. :)

any-fruit cobbler

RECIPE: Any-Fruit Cobbler

Post Food Staff .... you have a great olive oil store, just outside the beltway in Fairfax. It is (they ship orders from that location, too). They have over 80 Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oils, plus a selection of Italian specialty foods (like Semola and Semolina for the recipe in today’s food section). Visit the web site and call or visit.


Here's a great piece by Nancy Harmon Jenkins on how to source top-quality olive oil, from a few years ago. She mentions Olio2go. I can also vouch for Gustiamo -- have gotten great oils from them in the past.

I have a pineapple that I bought to be used in a fruit salad this Friday -- I bought the ripest one at the store, but it's still a bit underripe. Is there any way I can help the process along? I know I've heard the "put it in a paper bag" trick with other fruits but don't know if it'll work on this.

The paper bag trick will work! Place it in a bag with an apple or pear for a day, and then check it. It should be fragrant, a bit softer near the stem, and more golden all around.

I've almost finished off a bottle of Shaohsing and couldn't find any in the only grocery I can get to these days, so I bought what was available there, something rather generically named "rice cooking wine" and listing as ingredients water, rice, wheat, salt and (!) caramel. Does that sound like the same thing? It's unopened so I could try to return it ...

I don't think they're the same, from what I understand. Shaoxing wine is made from glutinous rice, not regular rice. For a good substitute, dry sherry should work in a pinch. 

I planted some seeds of Thai Kang Kob pumpkin that I got from a friend. What grew is a large, crooknecked, fairly firm light green gourd looking thing. Not really sure to do with it. Without actually seeing it, any idea how to treat? Like a zucchini? Steam, freeze, dry?

Based on that description, it sounds like you may have gotten a Hubbard squash. In which case, lucky you! You can treat it similarly to other winter squash. Here are a few recipes, plus a primer on winter squash.

Bean and Winter Squash Gratin

RECIPE: Bean and Winter Squash Gratin

Stuffed Thanksgiving Squash

RECIPE: Stuffed Thanksgiving Squash

RECIPE: Pumpkin With Hominy, Corn and Bell Peppers

I have at least five pounds of yellow squash in the 'fridge, having discovered it's delicious after a mere 2-3 minute boil, and a great low-cal substitue for pasta as it graciously accepts sauces, butter and cheese. Is there some other way I should try cooking it, or eating it raw? Also, suggested uses for the cooking water? I sometimes drink it. And sometimes it sits on the stovetop overnight -- is it okay then to use it to cook more squash or something else?

Have you ever tried searing/charring it? I first did it with zucchini for this taco recipe, and have gone back to that technique every summer since with yellow squash, too. It keeps it juicy, keeps it from getting mushy. I just cut into big chunks and sear in a hot pan without moving until it's lightly charred, then turn it. When it's done I toss it in salt and lime juice, maybe some ground chile. Amazing.

The other thing you might not have tried is to smash it! Kind of like you may have done for cucumber salad. Ali Slagle writes about doing that with other vegetables here, but I can vouch for the technique's benefit with squash, too. I'll smash, then chop, then toss with a combo of tamar, black vinegar and chili crisp. So good.

Best salmon quiche ever when all I had was heavy cream.

I 100% second the ability of BKF to remove burn marks from a stainless steel pan, but if you're going to spend more than a minute or two scrubbing, I highly recommend wearing gloves for your safety. My fiance spent 10-15 minutes with a pan and BKF without gloves and the skin on his hands was wrinkled for a few days. (We read of folks who had apparently worse, lasting conditions, too.) It's still a chemical substance, after all.

Thanks for this. I have pretty sensitive skin, so I always wear gloves when using BKF. Also, it's GREAT for cleaning bathtubs.

OMG I love the style of writing for that recipe. When have you ever seen "Now we're off!' or "...but I say just good black coffee." written in a recipe like that? Now I really want to make it!

So fun, right?

I read your column in today's paper about kitchen renovations and stoves. I have used gas, electric, and induction. I absolutely love the induction stove both the cooktop and the oven. I will be building a new home within two years and that is what I'm putting into my kitchen. Also I love Joe Yonan's recipes. They are always a big hit in my house. Thanks.

Thank you for the nice words!

And, as someone who is STILL awaiting a gas stove repair after a carbon-monoxide issue, I'm so tempted to just order an induction stove. In another week, I probably will!

Any recommendations for Indian food in the Falls Church/Arlington area? Bit of a novice here, but I love curries.

In the past, Tom Sietsema has been a fan of Curry Mantra out in Fairfax.

I'm a huge fan of IndAroma, which is slightly more of a hike, down on Little River Turnpike in Alexandria but so worth it and an easy trip from where I am in south Arlington. Aroma in Shirlington is pretty reliable.

If you're up for a drive, I have to say some of my favorite Indian is in the city. Rasika, Bombay Club especially. We also just had a downright fabulous takeout meal from Punjab Grill.

Seconding IndAroma!

Hi, What are good uses for flavored olive oils? I had two people gift me 4 bottles each because "oh, you love to cook so you'll love these." I've always been happy using regular (good) olive oil and then adding the seasonings I need (garlic, red pepper, lemon, etc.). Do you all use these flavored oils in your kitchens?

Like you, I get them as gifts, but I never buy them. Most are lovely, but not necessary for me.

I got some last year as a gift, and wound up giving them away to neighbors, because I wasn't really into them. But that's just me. I think maybe people use them for finishing dishes or for dipping bread?

That's gold - thanks Joe, just what I wanted!!

You're welcome!

It's good for salad dressing, depending on the flavor, I guess. I would think cooking with them would lose the flavor.

After reading your comments about olive oil--and following the link to the ATK rating/review of their 'bests'-- I checked my pantry and discovered that I had, in fact, most recently purchased the winning Bertolli Extra Virgin, Rich Taste that topped its rating. My oil has a harvest date of April 21,2020...which leads me to ask, what is the optimum length of time one should look for between harvest date and purchase? I bought my bottle in July, so I assume an April harvest is good. But what if it had been January of this year...or April 2019? Please clarify: how old is too old for EVOO?

I mean, the younger the better, but I think you'll be very happy with olive oil that's been harvested within the past year! After that, it's not that it's BAD per se, by any means -- but not what you want when you're going for something to use as a finishing oil, especially, where you can pick out all those delicious nuances and flavors. 

Slice it, place it on a foil-lined baking sheet, brush with olive oil, season with S&P, and stick it in the oven at 350 for a while. Or shred with a food processor, heat olive oil in a skillet, season with S&P and sauté. You can use any other seasoning that appeals to you. Also works with zucchini. I sometimes mix the two.

Yep. They're totally fine to mix!

I've go a Red Jalapeño olive oil from Pasolivo in California that I use to oven roast vegetables. I'm on my third bottle.

Do y'all have any suggestions for the best vegan pizza cheese? A friend is trying to go fully vegan and says finding a replacement for cheese on pizza is the last hurdle (they've already found replacements for other cheeses (sandwich, burgers, etc)). I'm not entirely sure what they've crossed off the list, but would love to pass along suggestions from my favorite food hive mind.

Have they looked at Chao and Violife, by chance? I think those are pretty good melters.

The other thing worth thinking about is to go with sauces that don't require cheese, basically adding moisture in other ways, like we did for this vegan pizza whose topping I designed to use baba ghanouj instead of cheese. It's so good. Caramelized onions, a bechamel made from almond or oat milk -- those are other examples of this strategy.

Everything is weird to someone (why do marshmallows exist?) so let's leave the judgment out. That said, is there source that packages spices and other ingredients most recipes only need a little of (like baking powder and baking soda) in single-use wrappers. Maybe a tablespoon at time (like sugar packets)? I would pay substantially more for ingredients packaged like that.

I can't even tell you how utterly horrified I was by marshmallows as a kid! Spicewalla sells little themed sampler packs of spices (like this one).

Oop, that link wasn't working, here:

Raaga is great! Near Bailey’s Crossroads

For the poster asking about ways to use garam masala - it's great in savory oatmeal. Stovetop oatmeal like you'd regularly make but throw in a few frozen veggies, garlic, salt, garam masala to your taste, and some coconut milk if you want to mellow the spice or make the oatmeal creamy. Also thank you to Joe for calling out the poster about 'weird ingredients'. Anything you aren't used to eating feels 'weird', doesn't mean the ingredient isn't worth trying and using in different ways. Just move along if it doesn't appeal to your taste buds.

I love that idea for garam masala in oatmeal! Honestly, I could imagine it for sweet oatmeal, too. Or overnight oats/muesli. Gonna try that!

And thanks for the thought on "weird" ingredients!

I know, old topic, but since I'm working 15 feet from my kitchen, I read that mention of Everything Spice, googled a recipe, realized I didn't have dried minced garlic but DID have fresh minced leftover from last night, heated a cast iron skillet over very low heat, and set the garlic to drying. All without missing a word of the rather boring zoom call. Couldn't have happened back in the day.

Nice! Isn't it also great to be able to throw in a load of laundry whenever you want, too? :)

Speaking of everything spice!

Everything Tomato Tart

RECIPE: Everything Tomato Tart

What is tamar? I ran a web search and found people and establishments with that name and Biblical references but so far, no food even when I added "food" to the search -- I'll keep looking but the remaining chat time is short so in case it's not there, I'm also asking you. Charred squash sounds great and I'll also try smashing with or without tamar. Thanks!

Sorry, did I make a typo? I meant tamari! It's a class of soy sauce that uses little to no wheat.

+1 IndAroma. Raaga in Bailey's Crossroads, Haandi on Rt7 by 66, & Delhi Club by Courthouse are also good. (***Caveat: haven't been to any of these since pre-pandemic***)

Thanks! Haven't tried a couple of those, and now I want to. And yes to Delhi Club, totally blanked on that. Been a while but always good when I've had it.

Noting that y'all had an article on the cookbook 'Good and Cheap' a few years ago - a wonderful book with terrific recipes. I gifted it to several. And Budget Bytes is a blog with great recipes. 

I accidently bought 15 pounds of pork shoulder (Costco shopping online fail). I used about a third to make pulled pork and it was bland and not "saucy" like my family likes it. Do you have a good pulled pork recipe? Any other ideas? Thanks!

I'm a huge fan of basically anything chef Scott Drewno does, so you might like this Sweet and Salty Roast Pork.

If you have a slow cooker, maybe Slow-Cooked South Carolina Pulled Pork.

What's your recommendation for a tin of TJ jackfruit?

The classic is a barbecue jackfruit sandwich, a vegan take on pulled pork. Try this one!

Dont need to say more....would like to have both a slice of cake and tea!

That comment really rankled. If YOU don't have an interest in trying something that is outside of what is considered the standard American palate, fine (I guess - I feel kind of bad for someone with such a narrow view of the world). But you shouldn't denigrate the food section of a major paper for including ingredients that may be unusual for you. Even reading the recipe is a chance to learn something and get a sense of taste, culture, maybe history. Trying the food from a culture you didn't grow up in is a great lesson in "travel" and history.

Thank you. It rankled us, too, obviously!

Ingredients just say water and not like extract I'm guessing. Any thoughts on how I can use this bottle?  Tastes like vanilla without the alcohol taste.

You can still use it as you would vanilla extract, but you may want to try using a bit more than recipes that call for extract suggest, to ensure you're infusing the recipe with enough vanilla flavor. 

Thanks for chatting with us this week. We enjoyed spending our lunch hour with you.

Like many of you we are planning for a seriously scaled down Thanksgiving this fall. We know the holiday season will be unlike ones we've enjoyed in the past.

As you know, each week, we give away a 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.)


Thanks to everyone who weighed on on the question regarding so-called "weird ingredients." Our favorite post of the day came from that discussion. It was the chatter who noted: "Everything is weird to someone (why do marshmallows exist?) so let's leave the judgment out."

Please send an email to to get your prize.

See you 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.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a staff reporter for Food and writes a weekly column on casual dining.
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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