Chat Transcript: The Food Team answers your questions on grilling, restaurants, this week's recipes and more!

Jul 01, 2020

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions. Submit a question by clicking on the 'submit now' button at the top and bottom of the chat.

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We’re heading into the Fourth of July weekend and that has some of us wistfully longing for big gatherings with family and friends over communal trays of grilled meats and vegetables and heaping bowls of potato salad and coleslaw.

While large gatherings still are prohibited by the ongoing pandemic and communal eating feels a long way off, if you are gathering a small group this weekend, re-read Emily Heil and Jura Konicus’s piece: How to host a get-together as safely — and graciously — as possible, and watch Mary Beth Albright’s video on the same topic.  

Then, you can plan your strategy and menu accordingly.

To help us get the food just right, Martha Holmberg explained her two-zone heat technique with a recipe for lamb chops and eggplant on the grill; while Angela Davis shared her favorite apple fennel coleslaw recipe. (Both Martha and Angela -- aka The Kitchenista -- are joining our chat today!)

Cathy Barrow whipped up a batch of her Spicy Caramel Popcorn, with a splash of bourbon and chile paste, which is perfect for dishing out in socially distant single servings.

Maybe your weekend will include a trip to a nearby park? Kari Sonde gathered a batch of picnic-friendly recipes for a little al fresco dining.

If your group is small and you don’t want to make a lot of mess, consider my twist on traditional fried chicken and potato salad, with baked chicken nuggets and warm tahini-dressed potatoes as a holiday weekend snack.

Or, make a batch of Joe Yonan’s Cauliflower Sandwiches With Smoked Gouda and Peppadews and enjoy them on the patio.

Wine columnist Dave McIntyre recommends a selection of three rosés and two reds – all for less than $20 each – to enjoy over the long weekend.

Got a sweet tooth? Becky explored the wealth of banana bread recipes in our archive, while Nourish columnist Ellie Krieger created a coconut berry crisp that makes tasty use of summer’s berry bounty. Also, Mary Beth has a video on no-machine homemade ice cream.

No matter how big your household, many of us have been cooking more than ever since the pandemic and that means our kitchens are getting a work-out. Becky’s got tips for cleaning those hard-to-reach places, like that elusive little strip between the stove and countertop.

We hear a lot of complaints about people being tired of cooking, but apparently everyone doesn’t feel that way: “Images and videos of people’s home bars and restaurants have found massive audiences on social media,” Kieran Dahl wrote in his recent piece for the Post.

And, while cooking remains key to feeding oneself now, some of us have been venturing out a bit more, including food critic Tom Sietsema, who shared a bit about what it is like to dine “inside” these days: “I pay my bill with a credit card that everyone touches as if it’s a butterfly wing, and I’m comforted to know the company policy is to wipe down the restaurant’s high-touch surfaces every 30 minutes.”

And, staff writer Tim Carman reflected on something a lot of us miss about eating out, noting that restaurants “can create intimate spaces — with music, with decor, with color, with plateware, with professionals attending to your wants — so that friends and loved ones can reconnect over a meal. Or celebrate. Or just unwind in a way that’s impossible at home, where you’re responsible for every element of dinner, from prep to clean up….”

Makes you wistful all over again, doesn’t it?

Hello! My daughter is trying to keep to a vegan diet and already makes some really delicious dishes. I'd like to give her a vegan cookbook for her birthday. I know you've given recommendations before but I couldn't find them in past chats and there are so many choices! Can you please recommend a good all-round vegan cookbook to start building her library? Thanks so much! Happy 4th!

There are lots of good ones out there, but a few possibilities: "Veganomicon" or "Isa Does It" or lots of others by Isa Chandra Moscowitz, "Vegan for Everybody" by America's Test Kitchen, "Sweet Potato Soul" by Jenne Claiborne, "Afro-Vegan" or "Vegetable Kingdom" or any other book by Bryant Terry, "Vegan Richa's Everyday Kitchen" by Richa Hingle.

Chatters, what are some of your favorites?

Rice paper questioner from last week. Becky’s primer was a huge help. The rolls turned out really well, except for the couple I tried to deep fry. But, lesson learned. Thank you for that and for the gluten free brownie recipe that was in the previous weeks round up of square items— delicious!

I will harvest my garlic in the next couple of weeks. I was thinking of freezing some for longer storage. Could I separate the cloves from the head, put them on a sheet pan in the freezer, then bag them once fully frozen?

That sounds like it would work well to me. I have frozen garlic that way. Some people recommend freezing it unpeeled, but I haven't done that. Also, I often go ahead and grate it, freeze it flat and then I can just break off pieces as I need them.

Frozen whole garlic cloves work well for mincing and grating. The pieces won't have the snap they did before freezing. Make sure the container is airtight to prevent the garlic scent from escaping.

For more tips on freezing produce and herbs, here's Angela Davis's piece: How to freeze fresh vegetables while preserving their best qualities

Question for Dave, my parents (80+) mentioned that the wine selection wasn't very good where they are and I wondered if there are any small (4 bottle or so a month) wine subscriptions/clubs that you would recommend? Nothing super fancy. Thanks for all the work all of you are doing!

Wine columnist Dave McIntyre can't be with us live this week, but he sent along this answer to your question: "Check out Naked Wines ( []), which uses a crowdfunding approach to support small wineries that don't get much attention through the traditional distribution system.

" is another major online retailer. Bounty Hunter in Napa focuses on higher-end California wines. Cellar 503 is a leading Oregon wine club."

How do you dispose of meat packaging? Are there ways to prevent odor?

Honestly, I just put it in the regular trash -- our pickup is 6 days a week, because we don't live anywhere there are dumpsters or outside trash bins, so I don't typically run into the odor problem. We have a good trash can, and sometimes I just double bag things, like put the waste in the plastic bag that was around the packaging to prevent leaks.

Other thoughts?

Provided we have the extra room, I keep meat packaging in a trash bag stored in the freezer until it's ready to be thrown out with the weekly trash. (Mostly during the warmer spring/summer months.)

I have some week-old green beans that aren't going to be cooked this week, so what is the tastiest way to save them? Roast and freeze? Blanch and freeze? Something else?

Outdoor Electric Grilling (on apartment terraces) -- are good results possible? What increases the likelihood of success?

Electric grills (and grill pans, same concept) are best for quick cooking items like burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, steaks, pork chops, chicken breasts. Think veggies/meats that mostly just need to be seared on either side. Use a high smoke point oil like avocado, grapeseed, canola, etc. and keep the grates cleaned in between use. 

The other part is simply in managing expectations - you won't get the full flavor of smoke or char that you can achieve on other grills, and these aren't intended for longer cook times - things that would typically smoke for hours, like whole cuts of chicken, pork, ribs.

Love all of Joe’s recs! If you’re looking for something with really, really easy recipes, I recommend the Happy Herbivore books, too

I really like the Oh She Glows cookbook by Angela Liddon. If you can look past the name, it's got some fantastic recipes inside, including a lot of what I call "everyday" recipes rather than a bunch of super-fancy stuff with obscure ingredients that are way too much work.

Does anyone know what kind of chilies those are that are in sweet and spicy red sauces in Chinese food (probably other sauces as well)? They're dried, little - maybe an inch long or a little more, by maybe a quarter inch wide - and bright red. I'm motivated to try to recreate a particular dish I used to eat at the restaurant near my childhood home, but they all look so similar.

They're sometimes called just Chinese red peppers, but they're aka Tien Tsin.

I do a lot of simple foods like roasted meats or veggies. I recently wanted to make it a little more interesting, and made a parsley/garlic/lemon/olive oil sauce. It wasn't perfect, but I loved what a jolt it brought to basic roasted veg. Any suggestions on other flavor combinations/herby sauces I could try? Thanks for all your guidance over the years!

Becky did a great piece on what to do with fresh herbs that includes sauces and vinaigrettes. It might be helpful to you: When life gives you herbs by the fistful, put them to use in sauces, salads and drinks

For example, she includes Wolfgang Puck's Chimichurri and a Mint Chutney.

Another way to get a bump of flavor is with an herb butter. I just made one I love: lots of chopped parsley, lemon zest, capers, and anchovies...and butter of course! Some salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Pop it onto the hot food and it melts deliciously. I used leftovers on some pasta--bonus!

I have a recipe that calls for 1 cup of shortening. I'd love to switch to butter since I don't keep shortening around. Can I do a 1:1 substitution? It's an old fashioned recipe where you let the dough rise overnight in the fridge and again on the pan before baking if it matters.

What's the recipe for? It's *probably* okay, but the thing you have to keep in mind is that shortening is 100 percent fat, whereas butter is closer to 80 percent, with 20 percent water. So butter might give you more lift thanks to the steam created when the water is cooked off. And of course, the taste will be different, but probably for the better.

OK, Dave, per your recommendation last week, my wife stopped at Horton and Early Mountain during her trip to Charlottesville last weekend. Here's the haul. In which order would you drink them? Horton: 2018 Viognier, 2017 Norton, 2016 Cab Franc; Early Mountain: 2019 Rose, 2018 Pinot Gris, 2018 Petit Manseng. I'm leaning toward the Early Mountain Petit Manseng; I'm not all that interested in the other two Early Mountain choices, although maybe I should be? My wife is going to love them no matter what you say. I'm also a big fan of all three varietals from Horton, although I haven't read up on those vintages.

Dave McIntyre is unable to join us live today, but he did send along this response to your question:
"Don't shrug off Early Mountain. In the nine years since it was purchased by Jean and Steve Case of AOL fame, the winery has become one of Virginia's stars across its entire range.

"I'd say your wife did a great shopping trip. As for order, I'd go rosé, viognier, pinot gris and then petit manseng, and with the reds the cab franc before the norton. On vintages, 2018 was exceptionally rainy, so the wines may not be as rich as other years, but you only have whites here so I wouldn't worry about it. I would drink them up, though, rather than aging them. Enjoy!"

Read Dave's wine columns here.

My family (4 adults, 2 older teens) will be making a 13 hour drive over 2 days later this summer, assuming that is still possible. We will be trying to make as few stops as we can and so will need car food. Do you have any ideas for lunches we can bring with us, including things it is easy for a driver to eat single-handed? I know, it is safer to eat while stopped, but we will also be trying to make as few bathroom stops as we can and we will be driving through states with quarantines in place for out-of-state visitors, we may need to eat while driving.

Ooh, hand pies, always a good solution! I also like the type of sandwich that you make ahead and wrap up tight so that everything stays intact. The classic is a mufaletta, a long roll filled with sliced cold cuts, peppers, cheeses ... Make it sloppy with some olive oil and vinegar and then wrap tight in plastic. Eat the next day, when all the juices have soaked into the bread and the filling has compressed. Just be sure to use a hoagie roll or ciabatta or some other bread that won't just "dissolve." 


Maybe Joe is being modest, so I'll suggest his "Cool Beans" cookbook. It's wonderful and everything I've made from it has been delicious.

Aw, shucks. I mean, I am incredibly modest -- really, the most perfectly modest person ever, and everyone who knows me knows that there's never been anyone more modest.

But seriously, since she asked for "all-around" vegan, which might include more than beans, I resisted the self-promo!

Last week (I think?) someone wrote about having less buttermilk in a quart bottle. I had an unopened quart bottle in my fridge for making salad dressing. I measured out the amount I needed and noticed the quickly approaching expiration date so decided to freeze the remainder in 1 cup measures. The buttermilk was thick and measured about 1/2 cup short. I added about 1/4 cup water, shook well and it made up 1/2 cup, still about 1/4 cup short. I tasted the watered down product and it tasted fine so I think It'll be ok for salad dressing or pancakes.

Wouldn't hesitate on salad dressing, but if you're counting on it in a baked good, take care. If it's watered down it may not give you enough acidity to generate rise. You might be able to get away with adding some baking powder to compensate. Just something to keep in mind.

I just put the whole unpeeled head in a ziplock and stick it in the freezer, then pull off individual cloves as needed (take it out of the freezer a couple minutes to make it easier to separate the cloves) and put it back. It lasts a long time with no noticeable deterioration.

Thanks. Good to know. Sound much less unfussy.

In a fit of pandemic cleaning, I discovered a rather embarassing Schroedinger's bottle in the back of my fridge–it's either a gem or a very sad waste. Years ago, potentially as much as a decade, I was given a bottle of homemade vanilla extract. The beans have been soaking in amaretto in a glass bottle sealed with wax. I've never opened it, and it's been refrigerated the entire time. Since it's been sealed and is mostly alcohol, what say you? Still safe to use?

I bet it is, yes. Just open and give a sniff to be sure!

I over-bought fruit that's about to go bad -- I am going to freeze the berries, but what can I do with some (already cut) watermelon?

I love to blend watermelon for quick slushies, mixed drinks, and agua fresca! Here's a recipe: Watermelon-Basil Agua Fresca


What's your favorite sauce or seasonings for roasting broccoli with/serving roasted broccoli? I tried the recipe finder but didn't find what I was looking for.

I like to toss broccoli with minced garlic, olive oil and a fresh squeeze of lemon. Then, when I take it from the oven, dust it with a little light Parmesan, maybe a dash of crushed red chili flakes. Not terribly exciting I know. Any other ideas out there.

Delicious. You might like this recipe: Broccoli With Roasted Peppers, Feta, Olives and Herbs

I love to serve roasted broccoli, or any roasted veg, with tonnato. Whiz up a can of tuna in the food processor with some mayo, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. You could add garlic or other herbs, but the combo of tuna, mayo, and olive oil is luscious as a dip for broccoli, especially when the florets are slightly charred around the edges. Yum.

A few years ago, I replaced a 20-year-old gas range with a broken thermostat with a new GE model, with a grill pan between the burners on the stovetop. The new oven is SO much better insulated than the old one, that I can bake and roast even on hot days, and it doesn't heat up the kitchen. Anybody who's thinking about upgrading their stove, it's definitely worth it. P.S., I love my grill pan.

Really good to hear! Most of us don't replace our oven until it breaks and our hand is forced, but definitely worth considering if your kitchen gets hot and the range is toward the end of its life span.

And three cheers for the grill pan.

grill pan

ARTICLE: How to use a grill pan

It has everything from salads, sandwiches, soups, entrees, to desserts!

I'm an impulse buyer of wine so I usually can't remember Mr. McIntyre's recommendations. Can he recommend the names of importers that usually have reliable wines and with good distribution in MoCo, preferably Rockville? thanks

Dave McIntyre is not able to join us live, but he was able to send along a response to this question:

"MoCo is notorious for its county-owned alcohol distribution system, but the situation for wine lovers has improved over the past few years as more retailers have opened up and the county is allowing distributors and importers more flexibility. And you are right to look at the back label for familiar names.

"You can also note which importers I list for wines that are available at stores near you, and the trick then is to remember those names when you go shopping without the Food section at hand. Some names: Grapes of Spain, Artisans & Vines, M. Touton Selection and Winebow all have pretty good distribution in the county. If you like South African wines, look for Red Wolf Imports; for Italian, Impero or Caput Mundi."

Is there a difference between "black beans" and "black turtle beans"? I didn't think there was, but the bulk bins at Sprouts the other day had separate ones for "black beans" and "black turtle beans," although there was no difference in price.

Black turtles are one variety (the most commonly available) of black beans, but not the only one. Not sure what variety Sprouts is selling as just "black beans," but I bet they're also turtle!

I've been putting my plethora of sorrel and arugula in pesto and freezing them, but when I taste them to adjust seasoning, they just don't have the kick that basil pesto does. Any tips for increasing flavor, in sorrel's case, and decreasing bit, in arugula's?

I often add lemon zest and lemon juice to pestos when using alternative herbs to lift the flavors. As far as arugula, that's a lot of bitterness to contend with - cutting it with other herbs like mint, parsley, or basil does work. 

I've made a lot of pestos, and have a chapter on them in my book Modern Sauces. You could think about increasing the amount of nuts or swapping in a different type? Pistachios are super sweet and can mellow either of those greens. But remember that basil is super fragrant, unlike sorrel and arugula which are more about the sour or bitter notes, so maybe set expectations differently. I would add anchovies to the arugula pesto, but that's just me ;)

wednesday is the highlight of my week bc of the two food related chats so thank you for being something to look forward to in this topsy turvy times. I'm having a big craving for palak paneer but never have been able to master this-do you have any suggestions or tips or even a favorite recipe to share?

Ah, I have a couple of recipes I'd be happy to send along. I think we've made the one from the Rasika cookbook, and there may be one other we've tried. Let me consult my husband, who has been the primary cook on those. Shoot me an email and I can share them.

My mother taught me that a well-rinsed salad spinner was invaluable in hand washing cashmere sweaters and other fine, non-wring-able hand laundry. A few quick spins beats rolling wet sweaters in towels to get out the excess water.

If I could insert the mind-blown emoji here, I would.

I bet this comment grew out of Becky's piece: How to turn single-purpose kitchen tools into multiuse gadgets. Lots of great tips in that piece.

Adding to the constant seasonal stream of "what do I do with this unfamiliar thing from my CSA box?" questions -- got some beautiful medium-size golden beets with the greens attached. Want to make the most of having both the beets and the greens. Thoughts?

I like to add it to cold borscht when I make it in the summer. Since the soup is just the liquid in which you cook the beets, plus beets and some vegetables and seasonings, having some beet greens makes the soup more filling.

Ever since I learned about cilantro stem sauce, I always have some on hand-- whenever you buy a bunch of cilantro and have used the leaves, toss all the stems and any leftover leaves into the blender with olive oil, some vinegar or lemon/lime juice, salt, pepper, and cumin or other spices that strike your fancy. (I'm sure there are recipes with specific portions out there but I usually start by putting in a generous splash of the liquids and a pinch of the spices, blending, and then adding more to taste.) It's very customizable and a good way to use up bits that would otherwise go in the compost or trash, plus it freezes well.

That's a great idea to cut down on food waste! Cilantro stems have a ton of flavor and don't need to be excluded from recipes the way people might think. I also like to use them in green Thai curry sauce.

This little salad makes the case for using those stems: Don’t trash herb stems: Chop and add them to your salads and sautes

Grilling isn't just a summer activity. Do it year round, people. If enough people do, then maybe I won't have to scrounge around as much in the winter to find charcoal. My favorite time is on a cold, clear January night with Orion wheeling above in the sky.

A primal pleasure, I love it!

Hi, I swear by this because it substitutes for plain yogurt and is great on fruit or in salad dressings & when baking muffins (yum!) BUT How do I know if it is going bad? In other words, Becky, how long past the sell by date is forever? Thanks much

Months and months, honestly. If it looks moldy or smells off, then you'll know. But you probably won't reach that point. Plus, you can always freeze.

We bought (and assembled!) a shiny new gas grill for my husband for Father's Day, and he's gearing up to grill something great for the Fourth of July. Any recommendations for a novice griller with an excellent new toy?

Fourth of July, classic grill -- screams a great barbecue chicken.

Classic Barbecue Chicken

RECIPE: Classic Barbecue Chicken

Congrats on the new grill! A couple of ideas: first, give it a "test burn," with the grill grate on it, to burn off any residue from the factory or whatever...get the grates all ready for action.

If you're a meat-eater, there's nothing more satisfying than a steak on the grill. Splurge on something that is naturally tender and has plenty of fat, so you don't worry about toughness or drying it out...I say rib-eye! Salt it about an hour ahead, let it sit on the counter so it's not ice cold in the middle. Get your grill grate nice and hot, lay the steak on and don't move it for at least 2 minutes. You'll get those hero grill marks that way!

Finish with the cooking two-zone method in my piece in today's section. The sauce would be excellent on steak, or just top with some butter mixed with smoked paprika and a pinch of cumin. Good luck!

For last week's poster who wanted pieces of not-rock-hard strawberries and a strong strawberry flavor, why not use a combo of fresh and freeze-dried strawberries? I would roast fresh strawberries with some sugar and puree them. Then I would add that and the freeze-dried strawberries to the ice cream.

This sounds like a smart strategy, although the OP seemed to want to crack the code more on the fresh pieces. I'm curious -- what's the texture like of the freeze-dried once it's in ice cream? I just can't wrap my mind around it enough to guess.

Found cashew flour in the back of the freezer. It smells fine, never opened Can it be used to make cashew milk or “cheese”. I’ve run out of nut milk and generally still isolating so not shopping If yes, how? Thx and Happy 4th

Hmm. I've certainly made it from raw cashews, and I've seen recipes that make it from cashew butter, but not from the flour. Chatters, anybody have experience with this?

From my CSA, I have one purple kohlrabi, a small fennel bulb with tons of leaves, and some broccoli (but not enough for the family). It seems there must be a way to pull them all together. Any ideas? I've never even eaten kohlrabi and the only thing I've done with Fennel is roast it (and it's too hot for that!).

These will be amazing in a slaw together. I'd throw in some herbs and an apple for sweetness!

Someone posted a link from Smitten Kitchen on DIY Perpetual Buttermilk. [1 part buttermilk, 4 parts milk and 1/8 t. Kosher salt per cup of milk used. Placing the ingredients in a clean jar, shake well, and let the jar sit on the counter for 24 hours. At that time, the mixture should be thick and smell like buttermilk.] I tried it. Failure. Mixture was no thicker than milk after a day. I tried again, this time following my yogurt method of scalding the milk and letting it cool to 110 degrees before adding the buttermilk. Failed again. Am I doing something wrong, or is it basically impossible to grow one's own buttermilk?

Ugh, bummer, I'm sorry. Has anyone done this? I know there were a few commenters on the original story who said they make their own. Maybe take a look back and see if they give any more details?

Free Rangers, I know you've published a lot of dough recipes over the past couple months, a few of which I've tried to varying degrees of success. I'd like to attempt pizza on the grill this long holiday weekend - any recipe in particular you would recommend? Thanks!

We had this great piece a few years back from Jim Shahin on grilling pizza. Check it out for tips, and then try the dough and pie recipes, too!

Artisanal Baker's Dough

Grilled Pepe's Style Clam Pizza

Grilled Tomato, Feta and Olive Pizza

but I do keep lard and goose-grease (lasts forever) in the coldest part of the fridge. If you're not going for vegetarian, just trying to decrease your trans-fat intake, those might work.

I'm so jealous! I wish my fridge had a nice stash of those some schmaltz :) It's true that animal fats are saturated, but used judiciously, they are delicious and make us happy. 

I got two pounds of cubanelle peppers in my Hungry Harvest box this week. Google turns up lots and lots of recipes for stuffed peppers, but are there other things you recommend doing with them? Thank you!

I use them just like green bell peppers when all else fails! But my favorite way is probably just chopped and sauteed with onions and sliced cured chorizo links.

I love that type of pepper because the heat level is so gentle--I'm a wimp. I might make a piperade: saute in olive oil with lots of onions and garlic, very slowly until everything is tender and sweet, then toss in a handful of halved cherry tomatoes, and maybe some dried chile flakes, to kick it up a notch. Cook down even more until you have a luscious pepper stew. Serve on grain, polenta, grilled bread, as a topping for fish or chicken.

they are fabulous cooked a bit (like spinach or chard) and added to a frittata.

I'm interested in making pizza dough, letting it rise, then refrigerating it for 4-5 hours before I shape the dough and cook the pizza. Do you think this will work? Or will it deflate?

Should be fine. But cold-from-the-fridge dough can be a bit hard to shape, so you might need to let it hang on the counter to warm up a little. You could even make the dough the day before and let it do a slow rise overnight. Good flavor. Here are some recipes, if you're interested.

The Easiest Pizza You'll Ever Make

RECIPE: The Easiest Pizza You'll Ever Make

Neapolitan-Style Pizza Dough

RECIPE: Neapolitan-Style Pizza Dough

A favorite is "Vegan Cooking for One" (FKA "The Single Vegan") by Leah Leneman. The author recognizes that, even if vegans doesn't live alone, they're often cooking only for themselves, so the recipes all serve one (very generous) portion (but can easily be doubled, quadrupled, etc.). The recipes are set out in sets of seven dinners and one lunch, with a weekly shopping list, so that if a large item like a cauliflower is required, you'll use it up by the end of the week. (Or you can just make individual recipes like an ordinary cookbook, of course.) The recipes are simple enough to make on a weeknight, and really delicious.

Thank you! I made this very case (about vegans/vegetarians needing to sometimes cook like they're single) in a previous book, too!

I just wanted to give a shout out to your amazing Eggplant Parm recipe that requires no frying. I've always stayed away from making iy because of all that messy frying, but this method and the great sauce that goes with it is a keeper. There were some comments about the amount of eggplant for the 9 inch dish, and I would just suggest that people weigh their eggplant. It looked like a lot, but if you keep it to the amount the recipe specified it will all fit, deliciously!

Thank you so much! I actually just made that recipe recently, too, and the eggplant was pretty much an exact fit. I had some big ones so maybe a few slices leftover, but I found ways to use them, no problem.

No-Fry Eggplant Parmesan

RECIPE: No-Fry Eggplant Parmesan

I'm about to be overrun with cucumbers from my CSA share. Typically when I make pickles, I use small pickles (Boston? Bush?), but what I'm getting are the typical ones used in salads. I can't eat this many salads. Can I make pickles with them?

You can pickle anything! Sometimes the skins are thicker, so it may be your preference to peel them first. I use regular cucumbers all the time for quick pickles. Here's one quick recipe.


My favorite local restaurant serves divine duck breast, and I'd like to try it. Where I live there is no source for buying, but I have found a nice online option. They offer Magret-Moulard and Muscovy, as well Long Island and Pekin. Can you tell me what the differences are among these? I'd like to get it right the first time.

Oh yum, I cooked a lot of duck breast when I was in cooking school in Paris...a couple of lifetimes ago! I think your best choice is Magret-Moulard, which will be from a duck that's bred for the breast meat. The cut will be larger and thicker, with a nice coating of fat, than the Pekin or Long Island, which I believe are more of a "roast it whole" duck. 

If your breast has a thick fat layer on it, score lightly through the skin in a criss-cross pattern, and then start cooking in a heavy skillet skin side down at a fairly moderate temperature. You want to slowly render some of that fat out before you try to brown and crisp the skin. That will happen in the rendering process. I sometimes would do that step on the stove top and then finish the breasts in a 425F oven, for just a few more minutes. You want to keep the duck breast quite rare (though I don't like it the way some French people do, which is "bleu"...too rare for me! 

I'm going to stop stress baking and start stress canning. Do you have a great recipe for home-based cherry pie filling using sour pie cherries? Or should I can the cherries and make the filling at time of baking? No freezer so canning it is.

We have cherry pie recipes, but to can the filling, you'd want a trusted source for that filling to make sure the pH is right/etc. Our own frequently contributor Cathy Barrow has this on her site that looks like just what you need. 

Since this is one of today's featured topics. I am hoping some milk manufacturers, dairy and non-dairy, are reading. Before I became vegan, I used to love eating/drinking partially frozen buttermilk. After nearly 20 years, I still crave it. I have tried the recipes to convert vegan milks using lemon juice or vinegar, which work well for cooking but not drinking. I have done Internet searches for manufactured vegan buttermilks, but have not found any. There must be others besides me who would buy it.

Consider your plea published! This came up multiple times in the comments on my story. Clearly there's a market for it.

Get a pint of good strawberry ice cream from the supermarket and dig in, it's exactly the same. The texture is great (at least, not a chunk of ice). The flavor is . . . fine . . . pretty good, really, but to me it's not worth the effort to spend an hour or more making ice cream, if it's going to taste the same as what I can buy at the supermarket.

Aw, man, this makes me a little sad! I definitely buy ice cream, but I also love making it and the strawberry I've made is pretty much tops. Homemade ice cream is really rewarding and so fun to customize. Here's my project from last year. (And this is my Peach Ice Cream With Amaretti and Ginger.)

Peach Ice Cream With Amaretti and Ginger

ARTICLE: How to create the ice cream of your dreams

And don't forget to keep that amazing fat for future use. If you're like my Hungarian father, that's on extremely crunchy toast with a sprinkle of paprika.

Sorry, the recipe is for rolls. Fluffier is definitely better in this case!

Yeah, should be fine!

I bought some ceramic pie weights, which I’ve never used before. The insert says to place aluminum foil on the unbaked crust. Does that mean I need to adjust oven temperature?

Hi, to use pie weights, you just line your unbaked crust with the foil and place the pie weights on top of the foil, then you bake your crust according to the recipe instructions. Does this answer your question?

I've been struggling for a while to figure out why my attempts at Chinese cooking (and I realize this is a huge generalization because there are many sub-cuisines, but I'm mostly thinking of stir-fries etc.) tend not to come out like I'm envisioning them. I can't tell whether it's because published recipes are "more authentic" than the food I usually get at Chinese restaurants, or healthier/less greasy, or if there's some specific ingredient that is usually used by restaurant chefs that is difficult to get for the general public and so isn't included. For example, I made this recipe (Better than Takeout Fried Rice): and it was fine, but to me it mostly tasted like ginger and soy sauce. I also recently tried making an eggplant with garlic sauce recipe (not WaPo) and that, too, seemed dominated by ginger and soy sauce (recipe: Do you know what's going on? Should I just pick recipes that don't have ginger? Should I use a different kind of soy sauce? Should I just give up on trying to cook something that tastes like it's from a restaurant?

I am someone who struggles with Chinese-inspired recipes too. Every time I try to make a stir-fry, it ends up tasting like, well, sautéed vegetables. I'm sure part of the difference is the heat level in your pan. Chinese restaurants, and good home cooks, will use a well seasoned wok and get it super hot. That's the dance, I think, between the heat and the ingredients. I have plans to teach myself using Grace Young's fabulous book Stir-Fry to the Sky's Edge. She is a wonderful person and excellent teacher, so maybe we can both up our games with Grace!

I froze two different well-known domestic brands of butter about two months ago, both in their packaging, boxes and all. One salted, one unsalted. Both look fine but smell bad and taste off enough that they're no good to spread on bread. But I tried making a quick bread with one and it came out okay if not stellar. Can you suggest any way to "rescue" the remaining butter, like maybe melting it might minimize the problem? And any idea why the butter went "off" when the other food in the freeer seems okay?

That is so weird. I honestly have no idea what would have happened, because the freezer should have kept it okay. It's odd that this happened with 2 different brands -- otherwise I would have said maybe one was already somehow contaminated. You could try making clarified butter/ghee.

We are looking forward to making your burger rolls for our very small 4th of July cookout. Since it is just a few of us, can I use half the dough to make a loaf of bread for toasting instead of more rolls?

Yes! Those burger rolls work very well as a small loaf of bread. 

Here's the recipe, in case anyone needs it: This one recipe makes two of the best cookout buns around

Oh She Glows and Candle 79 cookbooks are great vegan recipe sources

I made risotto in the pressure cooker last night, and it was undercooked. I've got leftovers, which I was going to attempt to resuscitate anyway, but now I'm wondering if I go with the tried and true method of cooking risotto, maybe I could actually not just rewarm them but fully cook them? Any tips for a best outcome, or should I just not bother?

I would definitely try to resuscitate! I think just gently heating and adding more broth bit by you say, the traditional method. The texture is unlikely to be perfect, but at least the rice will soften a bit. If the rice does get tender but the overall risotto is mushy, think about arancini! Scoop up a walnut-size bit of risotto, poke a little cube of melty cheese, like mozz or fontina, into the center, smooth it over into a nice ball. Coat in some bread crumbs -- panko works great -- and then fry in about a half-inch of olive oil. Eat as is, or dust with parm and a squeeze of lemon. You'll forget your earlier woes!

Thanks for the idea about the heat of the pan! I don't have a cast-iron wok, but do you think trying to cook in a cast-iron skillet could work?

Just wanted to thank everyone for the excellent cookbook suggestions for my daughter. Of course now I still have a lot of choices, but that means I cant go wrong. Thanks everybody!

For the past >15 years, I have been the happy and careful steward of an inherited Lodge cast iron skillet that is >75 years old. I love using it but there is one block: I can't bring myself to put it on our charcoal grill. I hear of great recipes and ways to use cast iron on the grill, but I am just afraid of ruining it. Am I being crazy?

No, I don't think that's crazy -- I'd want to take care of something that old, too! You can safely use it. Keep in mind that cast iron is forged at incredibly high temps so it can stand up to a lot. I talked to someone at Lodge who said he's heard stories about people's houses burning down and the only thing salvageable being the cast-iron cookware. And remember, it was originally used over open flames. Worst case scenario, you have to strip and reseason, but if you follow a recipe and pay attention to what you're doing, you'll be fine.

I made some garlic puree on Sunday — just garlic roasted w/olive oil — used what I needed and still have some left. I stuck it in a glass container in the fridge, but what’s the shelf life?

As long as it's roasted, up to a couple weeks in the fridge is fine, covered with oil. I would instead freeze the roasted garlic puree in ice cube trays. Pop it out once frozen and transfer to freezer bags. Or alternatively, fill up the freezer bag with the puree, flatten the bag and seal, and then freeze solid. 

Just want to add a word of caution to avoid leaving it at room temp for any length of time, due to the risk of botulism.

Since there are mostly grownups, they probably don't have to deal with the choking hazard problem, but we just did a 2500 mile (!!!) road trip with little kids and ate about a zillion peanut better sandwiches in the last 2 weeks (no jelly in the car), tiny boxes of raisins, trail mix with walnut bits, more raisins (and yogurt raisins), and cheerios, Bamba (peanut snacks), veggie straws and other shelf stable stuff - with the occasional apple or cucumber thrown in (because my kids can eat them without major chunks). We saved the good food for when we could spread out a picnic blanket somewhere safe... That road trip food sounds way way way better.

WOW, hats off. Mad respect. We've done some big ones, but not that big. And, yes, much Bamba was consumed. The dust was everywhere. Lol.

Oh my gosh, it is SO much better than anything you can find in the store. I use Jeni's recipe and it is ah-mazing! Everyone complains when we have store-bought ice cream instead of homemade.

The recipe is adapted from “Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts” by Jeni Britton Bauer (Artisan, 2014).

Why are you looking from wines from the EU or Australia when we ahve so many great wines from local vinters available. Buy local veggies, fruits, meats, and poultry adn pari with local wines. Va's wines are as good as anything from overseas or from Cali, Oregon ro Washington. Shop, eat, and drink local.

My herb garden is doing pretty well and i have an abundance of "savory." I've never cooked with it before so I have no idea what to do with it. Please help!!

Ahh, savory is lovely, but it's one of the "strong" herbs, which I group together with thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage. Unlike the "tender" herbs, such as parsley, basil, cilantro, falls in the middle for me...the strong ones aren't great for just eating raw, as in a pesto or on a salad. But drop a big sprig or two into a pot of white beans (Joe?), or in a tomato sauce, a stew...anywhere it can infuse its flavor into a liquid. You can fish out the sprigs at the end of cooking, or just let them linger. I think savory would also be lovely in some pickled green beans, if you're into pickling.

I’m single and usually need to halve recipes. My smallest skillet is a nonstick 8 inch that cannot go in the oven, so it’s been hard to properly cook things like the frittata from a few weeks ago. I’m thinking about buying another small skillet that is oven and broiler proof. Is there anything that I would still need to keep the nonstick one around for? Or can cast iron/enameled cast iron completely substitute for nonstick? I’m slowly running out of room for things.

While you can technically cook eggs in a properly seasoned cast iron pan, I do still keep an 8" nonstick pan around, almost solely for this purpose. It's just much easier for scrambled and fried eggs, which I eat weekly.

Found this at my local library and ended up buying a copy. It's practically a chemistry lesson. Amazing results, although making invert sugar made me go off to Michael's and buy a container of glucose....

Or yogurt?

Yup, both are pretty good! Stella Parks at Serious Eats gave the highest mark to kefir when making her drop biscuits with buttermilk alternatives, but yogurt had a respectable showing too.

I have one of these. Can it be used successfully for recipes like pesto and Thai curry pastes which call for the smooth mortars ? thanks

I use my molcajete for salsas and guacamole. I'm not sure you can achieve the texture (smooth and silky) of pesto and Thai curry pastes with it. I use my food processor or Vitamix for pesto and curry pastes.

are absolutely great! I've made them several times. They're the best.

I make Couscous With Beets, Greens and Garlic Yogurt from WEEKNIGHT VEGETARIAN JUL 16, 2014. Really different, best if it can sit for a while so the flavors blend (especially the yougurt).

So glad to hear it!

I wash with dish soap and then put it into some other kind of packaging — I save inner bags from cereal boxes, plastic bags from frozen foods, coffee bean packaging, rinsed ziplocks that can’t really be used for storage again — and put that in the trash. For things like bones or the absorbent pads that don’t rinse clean even with soap, I’ll double bag.


A good tip is to puree the greens and flavorings (chilies, fenugreek, etc.) before adding to the pan. Sorrel is a great addition since someone else mentioned the lemony herb! Now making the paneer part is what I have not mastered--I think I am adding too much vinegar and it is crumbly despite my pressing it. I miss my Indian market brand.

Thanks! There's a recipe for paneer in here.

Indian Macaroni and Cheese

RECIPE: Indian Macaroni and Cheese

Depending on the type, you may not need to do anything. We grow a few different varieties in the DC area, and the longer-keeping varieties keep for a full year - we're still using last year's harvest, and this weekend we'll harvest the new ones. If you have a kind that doesn't keep as well, the texture will obviously suffer from freezing, so you may as well mince them first and then freeze the pre-minced paste.

I've been giving away my CSA kale for a while now since I have a freezer full -- or rather I have enough in my freezer to last the rest of the summer. I blanch & freeze it as soon as I get it, but enough is enough. Where are the mustard greens, and the other flavorful leafy greens?

Sigh. This happened to me once in a CSA, but with kohlrabi. By the end of the summer I had like 30 kohlrabi bulbs and it became a family joke. There are lots of flavorful leafy greens in season now so it may be that your CSA just has a lot of kale. Good luck.

An abundance of riches, eh? If you haven't tried this recipe yet, it's a good way to "transform" kale into something different. Gently saute a couple of garlic cloves in a lot of nice olive oil and set aside. Cut off thick stems from kale and then cook in salted boiling water until tender, probably 5 minutes. Pop the kale, garlic and oil, salt and pepper, and maybe a touch more water or broth into a blender and whiz it up into a puree. It makes a startlingly emerald green sauce that's excellent on pasta, or as a topping for crostini, especially if you add some parmigiano-reggiano. Good luck!

I always make leftover risotto into a fritatta. All the gooey goodness melds into the egg and creates amazing flavor which, along with the rice texture, is very satisfying.

It probably depends on the type of buttermilk you're starting with. You need the real, cultured stuff. Most of the stuff in the grocery store is not cultured. You can also try growing your own kefir, but you need to get the kefir "grains". It is very easy. Try

Thanks -- feel free to follow up to clarify, because I'm just not sure what you mean. Do you mean the commercially cultured stuff is not what they should be looking for? I think most of the buttermilk at the store is cultured with the lactic bacteria strains, as I described in the story.

Bon Appetit Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Sherbet - I can't recommend this enough. Simple, and delicious. Don't skip roasting the strawberries - trust the recipe.

My go-to is the Strawberry Buttermilk from Jeni's.

Make sure you're not using ultra pasturized milk. That might help.

Interesting! This is starting to get above my pay grade. :)

I ran into trouble making yogurt from ultra-pasteurized milk and I suspect it's because there is absolutely no bacteria left to help the fermentation process. 

How about stuffed with a little cheese, dipped in batter, deep fried? It's been years since I've done this so I can't remember if they're cooked before opening, cleaning and stuffing. But I do know, despite the trouble, they're delicious.

I've also had butter that was left in the fridge (not freezer) for a while go off like that. I don't think it's rescuable. I now freeze my butter in plastic bags so that it doesn't taste like fridge.

Yeah, definitely occurred to me that maybe it was just freezer burn rathern than actual spoilage.

My Rumanian friend introduced me to a sprinkling of savory on my brekkie over easy egg and now I can't stop. She says her mother always put savory on eggs. I've gone ahead and assumed it's a Rumanian thing with absolutely no reason.

Hi all,

Thank you for joining us today. Hope you have a delicious Fourth of July.

Come back next week and we'll share more summertime recipes with you.

All the best.

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.
Mary Beth Albright
Mary Beth Albright is the Host and Editor of Food Video at The Washington Post.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer at the Post.
Olga Massov
Massov is a Food team assignment editor.
Martha Holmberg
Martha Holmberg is a recipe developer, teacher, editor, and cookbook author.
Angela Davis
Angela Davis is a self-taught home cook, food blogger, recipe developer, and food photographer. She is all about taking comfort food to the next level, and believes every dish has a story. Head over to her blog, The Kitchenista Diaries, to learn more:
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