Free Range on Food cooking Q&A: How to handle a glut of summer produce

Jul 22, 2020

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

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Past Free Range on Food chats

If you’ve ever grown your own produce, you know that a misshapen tomato, with a few blemishes, tastes just as good – sometimes better – than that perfectly round one from the grocery.

The same goes for produce you might pick up at the farmers market. Becky Krystal offered guidance on buying so-called seconds produce, which can also be a bargain.

She also shared a place to use those juicy tomatoes by creating a tart flavored with everything bagel seasoning that offers all the flavor of that deli favorite – without the bagel.

And, she rounded up a batch of recipes for using up the bounty of summer produce in desserts.

Joe Yonan took his eggplant outside for a quick grilling before making a flavorful salad with it.

Kari Sonde searched our Recipe Finder for foods with a tropical flavor. She rounded up a batch of recipes that call for coconut and she found a flavorful batch of dishes featuring tropical fruits, such as mangos and pineapple.

Olga Massov is helping folks who jumped on the sourdough craze find uses for the sourdough starter that they are feeding. A few weeks ago, she shared recipes for sourdough starter crumpets and popovers. This week, she made a sourdough pizza dough for a simple Margherita pizza.

Ellie Krieger helped us cool down with almond granita that might take your taste buds on a little trip to Sicily.

And, a big thank-you to all of the readers who shared there ideas of additional uses of one-purpose appliances. Becky shared her ideas and then many of you wrote it with even more ideas for using appliances for unintended, but clever purposes.

Sometimes, it's fun to experiment and play a bit in the kitchen.

I've been teetering on the edge of overflowing both my fridge and freezer for a few weeks, and I think today we're really going to have an issue when my CSA box gets here. A watermelon is part of the issue, so we'll get through that in the next few days, but in the meantime, I have to figure out how to minimize the space everything takes up. A few things are obvious: either eat the corn today or shuck and strip it and bag the kernels in the freezer for later use; tomatoes, plums, etc should stay on the counter; any dense greens like collards or chard get cooked right away. But do you have any other suggestions? Anything that uses a ton of broccoli, for example? Can I leave peppers out for a day or two? What do you with veggies in abundance?

We'll need to know more specific veggies!

I actually like to par-boil dense greens and freeze them (it's super easy to just rip out a handful of frozen, half-cooked turnip greens or something and let it finish off in whatever I'm making). 

You can freeze broccoli too! 

You can go to our Recipe Finder and search by the vegetable. I know that's not a great solution, but it might help you a bit. If you've got a lot of broccoli, this dish is delicious: Sheet Pan Honey-Garlic Chicken and Broccoli

Thanks for taking the question, and those are great ideas to start. But if you want more specifics -- my CSA box just arrived moments ago, so I can share the full lineup! New: rainbow chard, not-yet-ripe tomatoes and peaches, corn, green and purple peppers, a small eggplant, a few summer squash. Already taking up space in my crisper drawer: older corn (maybe I'll freeze this and eat the other fresh), 2 heads of broccoli, snap peas, the aforementioned watermelon, a few fresno peppers, butter lettuce, romaine hearts, more squash, a small avocado. If that shakes anything loose, let me know! Lunch will clearly be salad.

A lot of this falls into an article Becky wrote a while ago: 

How to store peaches, corn, melons and more summer produce

and another piece Angela Davis wrote recently: 

How to freeze fresh vegetables while preserving their best qualities

Def make that salad to use up things already in the fridge! Nothing you've got is going to suffer by sitting on the counter for a few hours while you lunch/freezer prep.

First year doing a CSA and it has been super fun to experiment with different vegetables and try new things. I'm really struggling with okra - which prior to a couple weeks ago I had never prepared and never really eaten. The slimey-ness is something I'm not sure how to combat. Do I soak with salt and then dry before preparing? From the recipe finder, I tried roasting with cumin, which was fine. And of course I know frying is popular. But would love any other ideas!

My mom insists that water never touch okra. She slices it, pats it dry, and sautees it in a little bit of oil with cumin, coriander, turmeric, red chili for 15-20 minutes. 

My CSA share included nice big green peppers, but we can only eat so much salad or pepper steak. Any ideas? If it were winter I'd make Cuban black bean soup, but...

Stuff them! This recipe calls for red/yellow peppers, but you get the idea.

Harissa Stuffed Bell Peppers

If it's a vegetable you intend to cook down anyway, you can freeze them. Also check out this piece by Angela Davis with advice on how to freeze: 

How to freeze fresh vegetables while preserving their best qualities

Years ago, the Post published a recipe for spinach pies. It's a great recipe. I've found it to be very versatile. Since I typically make it from my garden harvest, I don't always have spinach. I've used a mix of chard, kale, mustard greens, whatever is in abundance. I'll sometimes go to 24 oz rather than 20 oz of greens. I haven't tried dense vegetables like broccoli but I expect if they're cut small and sauteed or steamed till tender, they'd work.

What a perfect concept! Shredded broccoli and carrots would work too, as would (well-drained) zucchini. I've also made similar recipes with just egg whites, when I had some leftover that I wanted to use up.

Hello! I made a basil simple syrup for a peach bourbon cocktail - just wondering if you have any ideas on how we can use the rest of it or what ever cocktails would be good with the syrup. Thanks!

Yes! Try the Gin Basil Smash -- just sub your syrup for the simple syrup in this recipe. It's delicious. Also think you'd probably get good results by using it in place of maraschino liqueur in a Last Word -- it would be an herbal bomb, but likely a delicious one.

I received a large box of coarse kosher salt in my grocery box instead of regular kosher salt. Do I measure this kind differently? Use less?

what brand did you receive and what brand do you typically use?

I am seriously allergic to jalapeno peppers, which give me heart palpitations and breathing problems. Cooking and canning using red hot peppers cause no symptoms; I peel, seed, and dice them under running water for use in my homemade hot dog relish. Dried red pepper flakes don't cause any problems when added to food. This was not a problem in restaurants. They would adjust recipes when possible or suggest a different dish. But now that I'm isolating at home, it's getting to be a problem. Hot peppers have gone from trendy to mainstream. Every new recipe I want to try adds them, even Japanese (traditionally mild) now add togarashi. Is there any difference that you know of among the many kinds of hot peppers? Is there anything you can suggest as a substitute to pep up flavor?

When I don't have fresh peppers, I use the crushed red pepper flakes. I've added them to guacamole, sauces, taco fillings.  It's a good substitute.

Fresh peppers do vary quite a bit, but it is hard to say which other peppers might work for you due to your sensitivity and allergy.  

This is something you're really going to want to check with an allergist about! 

If it turns out that this expands to other peppers, you may want to rely on non-pepper spiciness: ginger, wasabi, hot mustard. It's not exactly a substitute, you'll want to search for recipes featuring these alternative-types of spiciness.

The sourdough pizza recipe you posted was very timely, as we recently discovered how delicious sourdough pizza crust is. However, we've had issues with how delicate the dough can be compared to regular yeast dough. My husband just got a small pizza oven as a gift, and the first pizza we attempted last night literally fell apart and had to go in the trash. We're thinking that our sourdough pizza might be better suited to the colder months when we use the oven, as compared to the grill or pizza oven. Is that's something you've found in your sourdough pizza experimentation as well, and is there any way you can think of adding a bit of sourdough flavor to pizza dough so that the dough is better suited to a grill or pizza oven?

Well, since I tested the recipe during the June heatwave (great timing, right?) and did it close to a dozen times, I found that the dough worked really well in the warmer months. I'm sorry you didn't meet success though! To be clear, did you have issues with my recipe? What flour did you use and did you weigh the ingredients? Feel free to email me at olga.massov@washpost.com and we can troubleshoot together!

Hi, This is for Olga M. Your SD pizza that fits your own schedule is intriguing, but I really don't have the whole picture. (1) How recently does the SD need to have been fed before it's added unfed to pizza dough? (2) What arrangements are made for next time? When making the dough, do you leave a portion of the unfed dough in the fridge for some indeterminate time in the future? OR feed it then?  Or keep aside a portion of the fermented and unbaked dough for next time, essentially a pate' fermente'e? (3) Or does the starter need conventional feedings. and if so how often? (Martin Philip at KA says you can use starter from the fridge but it's best if fed within the past week).. so doesn't that leave you with either discard, or an extra, required pizza? 4) To maintain the starter, what's the maximum time between occasions where you use the starter for pizza or other unfed-SD recipes?  Finally: I thought I'd heard about pizza stones cracking from being so close to the broiler. Does that really work? Thank you in advance for your clarifications! It sounds like a great idea but I realized I don't understand this enough to even start.  Cheers, D.

Hi there, so for the sourdough pizza 1) the assumption is that you feed your starter once a week and keep it in the fridge; 2) for next time you use the unfed from the fridge starter again to make another batch of dough; 3) the starter needs to be fed weekly or so (that is the traditional, common schedule); and i think you can feed it as often as you want or as rarely as you want depending on how often you use the starter. If you bake once a month, you may need to feed it a couple of times in the week to revive it, as it sort of goes to take a nap. Hope this helps! Oh, and I've not had any issues with my pizza stone and the broiler - and I've had mine for nearly 10 years.

I am going on vacation next week (I live in Massachusetts an am staying in state) and will be staying at a hotel. We are hoping to economize by bringing material for our own lunches, but will have limited refrigeration, probably just a mini fridge, and no freezer. We were thinking of bringing prosciutto, butter, and bread to make simple sandwiches, but we won’t be able to freeze the bread as we normally do to keep it from going bad. In the past, when we have left baguettes out on the counter, they have gone stale within the day. So, can you recommend a type of bread that will be robust to 5 days on the counter? Thanks!

I've had good sourdough breads last just about that long on the counter, but honestly if you want something that will last and stay in about optimal condition, I'd say a store-bought sandwich loaf is best. Yes, they're going to have more preservatives but in this situation, that's not a bad thing. Those will easily make it for 5 days, or more.

Recipe please!! And thank YOU!

Last week the gardeners at my condo left coconuts in the yard waste pile (I live in Florida). Excited about finally getting a really fresh coconut, I pulled one off the stack and started chopping. And chopping. But even with my very heaviest kitchen knife, I could barely put a dent in the husk. Finally I gave up and returned the coconut to the pile of yard waste. I looked at some Youtube videos on how to de-husk coconuts, and they all featured strong men with machetes. Is there any trick to getting a coconut out of the husk, for not-particularly-muscular middle-aged women without special equipment?

Hammer a screwdriver gently into each one of the eyes, pour out the milk, then firmly but not crazily hammer onto the middle of the coconut, turning and repeating until you make your way around, and it will crack and open. Here's a good, very brief Saveur video that shows it -- along with the use of a very cool coconut grater that I totally want even though I open a fresh coconut maybe once a year!

Hi, is Pimm's No 1 sold as a sort of liqueur or concentrated cordial in the USA? I saw a recipe for Pimm's in the Post and it called for only 2 Oz of Pimm's but also included gin. Here in the UK Pimm's is sold in 700ml or 1L bottles and is approx 18% ABV. You put it in a jug or glass with ice, dilute 3 to 1 with ordinary lemonade, and add strawberries, cucumber and mint then serve. Additional gin is not needed.

Hey there. I'm pretty sure Pimm's No. 1 is the same here as in the UK. And you're absolutely fine to make a classic Pimm's cup just as you describe! But Pimm's the liqueur can also be used to make new cocktails in different combinations with other ingredients, too. If you prefer to stick to the classic and not add additional gin ... cool! Perhaps the recipe you saw was this one--feel free to skip the gin if you want something lighter. 

Hello - I'd like to make a basil pesto - but wondering how I can get the nutty flavor without nuts. My son is allergic to most tree nuts and pine nuts are way too expensive right now. Any suggestions? Thank you!

Not sure how you can add nutty flavor, but I think it is delicious with basil, garlic and Pecorino Romano. You might try a few kalamata olives to see if that adds a depth of flavor.

How about seeds? Toasted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds!

I have two egg whites in the refrigerator. What would you do with them?

You could just add them into an omelet or scrabbled eggs. Or make these Baltimore Berger Cookies.

Or why not a lovely pavolva for dessert. 


If it were me, I'd probably whip up a couple of Ramos Gin Fizz cocktails.

I love Ann's gin fizz idea. But when I'm not sure if I want to use them right away, I freeze them -- in a resealable bag, air squeezed out, flat so it freezes into a neat sheet -- for use in meringues or cookies at a later date. 

For the chatter looking for bread with a long shelf life, try making wraps with tortillas instead. I buy them at the grocery store, and they keep very well for more than a week.

I made the peach, ginger and amaretti ice cream from your article on Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream st year and the strangest thing happened - after the manufacturer's recommended 25 minutes in the ice cream machine, it came out the exact consistency as when it went in! It had not frozen even a little bit, and was completely liquid. I put it in my freezer and eventually it hardened overnight, but the consistency is somewhat icy. What a disappointment! I bought fresh peaches at the farmers' market, crystallized ginger and made a trip to my Italian market for homemade cookies! The only thing I did differently from the recipe is after cooking the peaches, I pureed them in the Vitamix. The mixture was so smooth, there was nothing to strain out, so I had a lot more puree than the recipe called for, and I used it all. Would that make a difference? I doubt it was a problem with the machine - I use it all the time and the canister was definitely frozen.

Wow, that is really strange. What machine are you using? If it's the standard Cuisinart, I found my batches for that project were routinely ready in 20 minutes or so. Did you freeze for the full 24 hours? Jeni always emphasizes that, because you can think it's frozen when it's not all the way. I suppose extra puree might have made things too soupy, especially if you were putting a larger amount of base in than I developed the recipe with. So, yeah, could be. And how long had you chilled the base? I find I get the best results chilling overnight in the fridge rather than in the ice bath. Freezes faster.

Peach Ice Cream With Amaretti and Ginger

RECIPE: Peach Ice Cream With Amaretti and Ginger

I'm making paella (José Andrés vegetable version) for a family party next week. I've made the dish a couple times before and the cooking part is pretty straightforward but there is a LOT of slicing and dicing and grating. Can I safely do some or all of the vegetable prep the day/night before? There's cauliflower, baby squash, peppers, etc., in the recipe.

Absolutely. Those will hold up just fine overnight. The only thing I might wait on are any alliums (onion, garlic), which tend to lose punch once they're cut.

Make a souffle! Make a white sauce, stir in grated cheese, blend in the egg yolks, season to taste, whip the whites, fold in and bake.

Food team! This is almost more of a philosophical inquiry. I've been isolating since March, limiting trips to the grocery store and delivery, cooking almost every day, and I've just...lost any interest in it. It's so much work to make food happen - think of what to eat, buy ingredients, re-plan from scratch when three key ingredients are inevitably missing from shelves, chop, cook, eat alone in my apartment, do it again tomorrow. I can't even get excited about my usual junk food loves, like French fries or pizza. What do you find helps reignite your interest in food?

This has happened to me a fair few times in the past. Honestly? Give yourself a break! You don't have to be excited about what you're eating. You might be putting some pressure on yourself to find joy and meaning in something that's starting to feel really mundane. Don't force yourself to come up something brilliant or find bliss. Just relax, eat without thinking too hard about it, and find something else to focus on. The spark will come back. 

This happens to me, too. I like to remind myself that cooking is work! It's not always going to be fun, and it's important to give yourself a break when you need it. That said, looking through cookbooks or shopping for spices gets me excited about imagining new flavors and tasting new combinations or trying new techniques. 

Afternoon wonderful Free Range people! I recently tried your pretzel recipe and loved them, however I used table salt so they were a little salty. Since a lot of my recipes use kosher salt I decided to finally buy some and use the exact measurement instead of guessing and halving whatever the measurement is and using kosher salt. The thing is, now that I'm using kosher salt and the amount called for the recipe, I am finding things overly salty - disgustingly so. I made a batch of slow-roasted tomatoes and they were inedible because of the salt level. Is this something where I should continue halving the salt amount because woah, salt? I'm using coarse kosher salt if that makes a difference?

If I'm understanding this right, I may be confused. If you used table salt instead of kosher salt, absolutely, things will be saltier. Table salt is finer than kosher, so you actually get more salt in the same amount of volume. However, if you are using kosher salt in recipes that call for table salt, I would think you'd have the opposite problem, as 1 tablespoon table salt is about the same as 1 1/2 tablespoons coarse kosher. The only thing I can think of is that coarse kosher salt, such as Morton's, does not dissolve as easily as table salt or Diamond Crystal kosher. So you may just be getting bites with more pronounced salt that has not been absorbed or dissolved. Does that make sense?

salt

ARTICLE: How to choose the right type of salt for your recipe

one of my covid triumphs was learning to make vodka sauce, but can you tell me what, exactly, the addition of vodka does? thank you so much!

You make me want to make it with and without to see if I can tell the difference, but most recipes explain that the vodka helps release the natural flavors of the tomato. It also provides a contrast with the rich cream.
Here is a recipe to try, if this query has given anyone a craving:

Penne Alla Vodka With Chicken

I was gifted a "strawberry shortcake mix" that made not-great shortcakes - dry, crumbly, pretty tasteless. It has flour, sugar, baking soda, monocalcium phosphate (another leavener) and salt, but obviously I don't know the proportions. The directions call for adding milk and oil. Any recommendations on what to do with it that's tastier? Thanks!

When in doubt, always up the fat content :) I would just add cream and see what happens :) Maybe even melted butter.

Hi! While I have sliced almonds, I also have whole almonds I can chop and pre-ground almond meal. Would using one of the other give the same results so I can hang out to my sliced almonds for granola?

I think if you chop your almonds finely, your granita should turn out well also! I don't see why it wouldn't. 

Both salts are Morton’s brand. The box says use equal amounts but I wonder if anyone has experienced that this is true.

I would this this would make sense if you use equal amounts by weight, but the coarser salt would take up more volume, thus having less salt per volume measure... or at least that is how I think about it.

German rye or pumpernickel keep very well. They are often sold tightly shrink wrapped, in my grocery near the deli counter, not near the breads. In my view they go particularly well with the OP's sandwich fillings of butter and prosciutto

I need to use some aging baby bok choy tonight, and I also have a large quantity of Tex-Mex-y black beans that I need to use up. My brain is so stuck on Asian-y flavors for bok choy that I can't think of ways to combine them!

Bok choy is a brassica, so I'd turn it into a slaw! Thinly slice, then toss with a little mayo, a little chipotle in adobo, fresh lime juice, salt to taste. Then make tacos or tostadas, use the black beans as the base, and top with the slaw -- along with any/all of the following, as you have and/or like: avocado, queso fresco (or mild feta), your favorite salsa, pumpkin seeds, cilantro.

I found a brand new, very high-end baking steel that was given as a gift while decluttering. What are some uses for it beyond pizza?

My first thoughts: naan and loaves of bread.

Check out this post from the Kitchn, where readers have chimed in. Suggestions include using it similar to a pizza stone, in terms of using it under a dish or baking sheet to transfer extra heat to pie crusts or roasted vegetables.

Anyone else?

Yes. This. I made some delicious biscuits with rye sourdough starter remnant and the amount of salt in each bite was startling and concentrated; the recipe called for coarse kosher. I switched to sea salt and reduced the amount and was satisfied.

I'm seeking ideas on how to use the juice that's left in the jar after the olives have been eaten. Unfortunately, in this case, (LOL! ) I'm not a martini drinker, so I can't use it that way to make this beverage very dirty.

What if you use the olive brine to add to salad dressing or dips, or use some of it to brine chicken in?

Check out this piece by Rachael Jackson. Agree that olive brine would be a great addition to salad dressing, maybe a chicken salad or tuna salad, if you like the flavor of olives in those dishes.

Your food scraps deserve another shot. Here’s how to use peels, stems and more in your cooking.

 

Not to go on about this but my #1 favorite use for the liquid left over in the olive jar is to brine chicken thighs. I put boneless, skinless thighs in a plastic bag with the juice and have left it there for an hour, up to a whole day. The juice adds a salty, complex flavor that even non-olive-lovers enjoy.

Any recommendations (from you or the chatters) for lower-cost blenders that crush ice/frozen fruit? I want to make smoooooothies.

Not sure what you consider lower-cost, but I'm guessing you mean something other than the VitaMix, which I haven't yet splurged on either. I'm pretty happy with my Ninja -- yeah, the blade is kind of intimidating but I find it makes quick work of ice and frozen veggies. It basically can reduce ice into a snow cone/shave ice consistency, which reminds me that I've been saying I want to make them soon.

Mine is a number of years old, but it's similar to this one, which seems to be in the $100 or less territory.

I used your walnut taco filling to stuff poblano peppers, which i topped with smoked cheddar and roasted over a tomato-chipotle sauce. It came out delicious!

Glad you enjoyed the walnut taco recipe. Readers often write in to tell us how much they enjoy this recipes. Joe Yonan adapted that recipe from "Healing the Vegan Way," by Mark Reinfeld (De Capo Lifelong Books, 2016).


Hi - for about the last week, nothing happens when I click on "Reviews" for Food section articles. I've tried different browsers. Can you have someone check into this?

Yes, it's a glitch that we're working on -- but it might wait until we move to a new content-management system in a couple of weeks! In the meantime, you can see the reviews/comments if you scroll down. Apologies for this!

Hi Rangers, I’m asking early because I can’t join you live this week, but when recipe calls for bay leaf, previously I tossed in a dried. But now I have a thriving live Bay tree, and I’ve taken the occasional leaf for a recipe. But am I wrong? When a recipe calls for bay leaf, should I always lead with dried? I’ve learned so much from y’all, thank you so much! Juliette

You are so fortunate to have fresh bay leaves in abundance! You can use fresh bay leaves instead of dried. The fresh ones are usually a little lighter in flavor, so consider adding one extra fresh bay leaf to whatever you're making.

Hi- I’m looking for inspiration for some easy (as in limited number of ingredients and nothing that’s hard to find) vegetarian, no nuts meals/salads for the beach house rental kitchen. Bonus if they’re customizable for my picky crowd ( each one delightfully-not-picky in their own way). Thanks!

Isn't it great when there is an exact story for what you've asked for?

Petite Pasta Salad With Corn, Tomatoes and Feta

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

Thanks for that delicious-looking honey garlic chicken recipe! I know it's not ideal, but if all I have for chicken is boneless skinless breast, would you suggest adjusting anything?

Sure. You just might want to cook them for a shorter time to prevent them from drying out. 

Can someone recommend a good black forest cake recipe (the version with alcohol) or know where in the DMV I can buy one?

I guess I should really commit my recipe to writing, which I've made a few times using the Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake doctored with some kirsch, a can of Morello cherries from Trader Joe's cooked down into a sauce with some kirsch and frosted with this whipped cream frosting from Stella Parks, which I make with freeze-dried cherries...

I don't know if I've ever had one from a bakery locally. Any recs?

Now, I want your recipe. That sounds amazing!

An awkward question: we have severe cashew allergies at our house, and coconut milk seems to cause gastric distress too (too rich maybe?) - what are good substitutes? Are these ingredients used for fat or creamy mouthfeel (or does it depend)? Non-Vegan subs are fine, and Almond, Peanut, and Sesame based subs are also just fine. I just started exploring Afro-Vegan (Bryant Terry), and it all looks so delicious, but many of the recipes I want to try contain one or the other (as do so many of the plant based things I would love to explore more).

It really depends on the recipe. I'd say you could probably sub almond milk in most cases for the coconut milk, and, well, cream for the cashew cream. You can also use almonds instead of cashews to make almond cream -- especially if you have a high-speed blender.

After months indoors, I don't know what specialty food stores are still around, or if those that are, are having any difficulty restocking shelves with imported items. Please put together an updated directory and map for us locals! I'm thinking of shops that specialize in ingredients from specific geographic regions -- Asia, Latin America, Africa. With due recognition to the surprising breadth of items at our local supermarkets, when I want fresh epazote or dried shrimp or tef, or a specific kind of dried chili or bottled soy sauce, I've relied on Specifically, in my case, for years, I've bought Asian cooking ingredients at a combination grocery and furniture store on 7th St NW a few steps from the Gallery Place Metro, pretty much next door to the Walgreens. I don't know the name (I'd pop in before attending shows at Shakespeare Theater and Woolly Mammoth) or whether it's (re)opened and if so, if it still carries, say, 12 kinds of soy sauce, six kinds of dried mushrooms and bags of dried shrimp, tree ears and other things I can't find elsewhere or if tariffs and travel restrictions have limited its stock. Could you find out? or ingredients from Latin America, including multiple kinds of dried chilis, fresh cheeses and a wide selection of bottled adobos and moles, I'd roam Mt. Pleasant Street and the surrounding area. For a public transportation user such as myself, it The helpful staff would show me which ingredients

Honestly, I don't know of any small global markets of the type you describe that have closed. Grocery stores generally have done well during the pandemic. And from my experience, they've haven't seem to have had as much of an issue with supplies. (For instance, except at the very beginning, when things were really crazy, Patel Bros. has had lots of rices and legumes.) For Latin American ingredients, you might try Panam International on 14th Street -- it's just a 10-minute walk from the Columbia Heights metro. 

As for your 7th Street NW store, I believe you're talking about Da Hsin Trading Co. (dahsin.com), which is open and says they still have food -- although I didn't quiz them about particulars. Go check it out!

I'm guessing Joe probably knows the answer to this one -- how long does aquafaba stay good? I poured some into a jam jar at least a month ago. Toss or use (or freeze)?

Toss. I'd keep it for no more than a week in the fridge, or freeze.

I'm trying many recipes for the first time so I don't want to buy big bottles of things I may not use again, plus I'm trying to limit shopping trips. But I need your assistance to adapt the ingredients I do have to something resembling what's called for, with apologies to purists. For instance, I know I can use peanut butter instead of sesame paste even though the taste isn't identical. At the moment, I'm wondering how to use the "seasoned" -- actually, that's "sweetened" -- rice vinegar I do have in recipes that call for Chinkiang vinegar, which is not sweetened and which I don't have. The recipes call for adding honey or sugar so I'm just skipping those but I don't have any idea if I'm overestimating how much sweetener is in my rice vinegar. Your suggestions?

That's a bit tricky. Chinkiang black vinegar is quite different from rice vinegar. I called for it in the hot and sour soup recipe I shared last year. You can read more there, but a mix of red wine vinegar and balsamic is a better strategy than seasoned rice vinegar. Without knowing the recipe and the exact amount of sugars in things, it's hard for me to guess. If it's a situation where you can taste as you go, do that.

ARTICLE: How to make substitutions for spices, herbs, dairy and meat in your everyday cooking

Do any of you compost at home? I used to collect my compost and drop it off weekly at the farmers' market, but it looks like my local market isn't opening this summer. We have way too many deer and raccoons around to just do a compost pile. Looking into the closed drums and feeling daunted, since I don't know anyone who has tried one.

I've gone through a few composting methods. I wrote about a worm composting system, which I highly recommend and after some work ended up really liking (but my husband hated, cause he's just really squeamish about worms). I moved to a small-ish double-tumbler system that I didn't have as much success with, because it just wasn't big enough to handle everything that was going in -- especially since you need to mix in a good amount of paper or other "brown" waste to get it to do its magic. So now I have an outdoor bin/pile, and haven't had a critter problem (yet).

I pulled this from an article posted last month because I like mustard I like oranges and I like chicken. The only item I left out was the hot sauce, because I hate hot sauce in all it's iterations. All I taste is hot sauce, not the meal. Anyway, while it's fine, it has no zing at all. What could I do instead? 

How about crushed red pepper flakes, a bit of grated ginger? I think both would work well.  The Honey Citrus Chicken Thigh does need a bit of zip, too.

Hubby and I have been on an Ethiopian kick lately that is starting to veer into an obsession. It's a delicious obsession to have and we love to support the local businesses, but now I am starting to wonder how the lentil and tibs dishes are made. Do you have any cookbook recommendations?

Yes, I have read good things about (but have not cooked from) "Ethiopia: Recipes and Traditions from the Horn of Africa" by Yohanis Gebreyesus. Any chatters have experience with this or another book to recomment?

I hate to recommend single-use plastics, but plastic wrap ("cling film") wrapped tightly around the baguette seems to be the only answer to keeping it chewable.

I find that even airtight, they just lose something the next day.

We keep marmalade in the fridge as an occasional treat, and the last time I opened it, there was a layer of lighter color over the entire surface. It wasn't white, so not obviously mold, and there were no darker spots or a bad smell. I think there was a good chance the sugar had just crystallized. But I threw it out just to be safe, as one household member sometimes uses the same utensil for both butter and marmalade and I'm afraid it could have gotten contaminated that way. Would you have scraped it off or thrown it out?

I love marmalade, and sometimes just eat it by the spoonful! This is a good question, though it gets tricky when mold doesn't look like what we think of as food mold: green or white and fuzzy. If the marmalade was made with the right ratio of sugar to fruit, it sounds like that layer would have been crystallized sugar. If moisture condensed in the jar, it could have formed a thin layer of ice on top. Either way, I think you're right, it doesn't sound like mold, but if I was really unsure I would have thrown it out like you did. 

I like jerk chicken but do not wish to prepare at the present time. Can you recommend a carryout restaurant in the DMV please?

My favorite jerk chicken, hands down, is at Just Jerk in Lanham, Md. It's a small takeout operation that does the dish right: The marinated bird parts are cooked over a grill with lump hardwood charcoal, not in an oven. Just thinking about the jerk chicken here makes my mouth water.

 

Review: Just Jerk in Lanham: Chicken the strikes all the right notes.

 

But you can also find good jerk chicken at Move and Groove on Georgia Avenue. It's a tiny Caribbean market with a window in the back. Each Friday, the owner serves up wood-grilled jerk. 

Hey, hey, how could we forget? Everybody, join us in welcoming an addition to our team: Daniela Galarza!

She's a trained pastry chef and has developed recipes and written freelance stories for The Post (including a primer on making the best tarte tatin and a feature on people learning to cook during the pandemic), New York Magazine, Taste and the New York Times, among others. She has been a senior editor at Eater.com, deputy food editor at Los Angeles magazine and associate editor at Eater LA.

Daniela will help conceive, develop and write a new daily recipe newsletter, and will also write other stories. And she'll be a regular here!

I tried one several years ago and my family just made faces even at the idea. That said, I think the everything spice idea will really get buy in from at least one of the teens. Ready to give it another go!

Great! I hope you and the tough critics like it! the everything spice really gives the crust great texture and flavor, if I do say so myself.

Everything Tomato Tart

RECIPE: Everything Tomato Tart

Save them for a bit and add to them? I made a few things in a group (choux paste and pastry cream) that used a lot of yolks and just kept putting the whites in a jar. Then, I added another one to make a half recipe of angelfood cake to bake in a quarter sheet pan. A nice light, quick in the oven, dessert.

Great idea to save them in a jar, in the fridge, until you have enough to make a cake like angelfood! So good with strawberries or peaches and cream this time of year...

I was delighted to learn more about onions this week from a favorite gardening source, and thought I'd share the info in reference to last week's chatter who had noticed that (their) onions were rotting sooner than (they) expected. Apparently, there are two kinds of onions: short-storage sweet onions and long-storage pungent onions. Sweet onions are also called Bermuda or Spanish onions (no idea why on that geographical disparity), are easy to peel, and have thick rings. They don't typically make you cry when you cut them. And... they don't store well. Pungent onions, as the name implies, have more sulphur compounds and will usually make your eyes water when you cut them. They are harder, denser, with thinner rings than sweet onions, and can be more challenging to peel because the skin clings tightly to the flesh. They store very well. They are considered best for cooking because heat makes them sweeter and improves their flavor. Hat tip to John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds for this great info. I have been cooking for 40 years and gardening for nearly as long-- and was delighted to learn this new-to-me info.

Thanks!

Warning: "lemonade" in the UK is soda -- like Sprite. I don't know why they call it that but it's pretty disappointing when you order it expecting a tall cold glass of lemon juice diluted with water and sugar.

Interesting! In Russia, when I was growing up, that's what was referred to as lemonade also.

Down the street from us in College Park, and walking in the mornings I can smell such deliciousness!

Joe: I know how to open a coconut. I meant getting through the (tough, green) husk to get to the coconut.

Oh, sorry! I haven't done that, but this video instructs you to use a flat-head screwdriver to loosen and lift/rip off the husk rather than hacking at it. Check it out; hopefully that'll help!

how does it differ from, say, a cookie sheet?

It's more akin to a pizza stone. Thin, gets super hot. Read more here

Oh, I remember that! I was in the old USSR in the winter of '74-'75, and "limonad" was indeed soda. For Pimms Cup, I like to use a sharp spicy ginger ale instead of Sprite-like sodas.

I like Delia's black forest cake - although it's been a very long time ... . 

Hi again. Yes, I use the standard Cuisinart machine. I chilled the base overnight, maybe 12 hours. When you ask how long did I freeze it, do you mean the ice cream, after taking it out of the machine? If so, it's been in my freezer for 2 days now. It took about 15 hours before it was hard.

Sorry, I meant how long did you freeze the canister? The ice cream should set in a few hours, or overnight. I suspect the extra puree may have been the issue. Any idea how much more? I kind of want to do a piece about this but typically you're going to get a smoother, thinner puree in a blender versus a food processor. So especially with your Vitamix, you probably got it so pulverized it was smooth enough to all pass through the strainer. It's possible that also got you a bit more sugar in the end result, and too much sugar can make ice cream soupy, as it interferes with the formation of ice crystals. Good in the right amount, bad if too much.

I got the one that Becky just recommend a few weeks ago (I had asked the same question after my movers lost my blender jar -- again) and it's really great for crushing ice (it's literally like snow) and smoothies. I was a little disappointed, though, to find that it's not intended for use with hot liquids. I don't know if that's just the lawyers talking or not.

Yes, it is like snow! I've probably used mine with hot liquids... and lived to tell the tale, although more often than not I just use my immersion blender for that.

Caspian Market on Rte. 40 in Ellicott City MD covers the Mediterranean to the Caucasus with Indian thrown in!

Thank you!

I've had one for twenty years and no critter problems. You just have to tend it the right way (I don't count ants and flies as critters, as they're a signal that the pile needs watering.)

Good to hear!

I've had the worst luck recently (specifically lack of any luck at all) getting my homemade pizza dough to slide into the oven onto a preheated pizza stone. I put parchment paper on a rimless cookie sheet, I dust with cornmeal prior to putting the dough on. I move quickly once I get the dough rolled out to putting the toppings (I have them all pre-staged), but went I go to slide it off the cookie sheet, the parchment doesn't slide, it glops into the oven (last time half of the stone, half off, and with a hot preheated oven, it was an epic mess). Is it my dough? Too wet? After rising, it rolls out just fine, doesn't stick to rolling pin. Soooo frustrated! I thought the dough was the hard part, but I'm stuck on getting the dough into the oven!

I think the key here is to not "dust" with cornmeal but be generous with flour. The dough gets stuck pretty easily. So, be generous with the flour and I think you will have better luck. Sorry this happened to you. I can't even tell you just how many times it has happened to me until I learned my lesson!

Just wanted to tell Joe that the Dal Makhani on p. 99 of Cool Beans is one of the best things I've ever eaten. It quickly became a family favorite and made its way into heavy rotation. Thank you!

Oh, I'm so glad to hear this! Thank you!

Every time I try to make a sheet-pan chicken dish, the pan ends up so crowded that everything steams instead of roasts. This recipe, too, seems to have a lot of stuff on one pan! If I do two pans in a convection oven, would that get sufficiently crispy?

Sure, you could do that. I found that because you cook the chicken and potatoes first, which allows them to be more spread out, it works well.

The broccoli is added at the end of the cooking time.

Also, I think running the whole thing under the broiler gives it a nice little char, too.

I got beautiful farmer's market okra - no slime at all.

Do microplane graters lose their sharpness? Do you just replace them periodically or can you sharpen somehow? Thanks for your thoughts!

Yeah, they do, alas. As far as I know, they're not really the thing to resharpen. I would get a new one. I did read a tip that you can better preserve the edge by not pressing down as you come down for another pass across the teeth.

microplane

ARTICLE: Zest up your everyday cooking with a rasp-style grater

I'm unexpectedly leaving town for three weeks instead of one - my mature starter lives in the fridge and I typically feed it once a week. Any suggestions on how to have a live starter when I get back? Or is my only option bringing it along?

Don't worry about it. Just leave it in the fridge. When you return, just feed it a few times in the week and it'll come right back. Starters are tenacious - don't worry about it!

Some folks also recommend drying it out as an option. I think Maurizio on the Perfect Loaf had instructions.

I love tangy ginger beer in my pimms instead of lemonade.

They're never slimy.

There's one that calls for toasted hay. For those of us without access to a farm, what grass-like forb would you substitute?

I buy straw from a local garden store for mulching -- you could certainly use some of that! 

German friends tell me that traditional Black Forest cake is made with sour/tart/Montmorency cherries, which I am crazy about. How would you adjust the recipe to use them?

Not sure you'd need to do much, although I suppose you could add a tiny bit more sugar if they were coming across as too tart.

I want to buy a Kitchen Aid and I am not sure what's the best one to get for a beginner baker. Any recommendations?

And by this you mean a mixer, right? If so, the Artisan series is a nice starting price point and will get most projects done admirably. I have a pro one that I bought refurbished and saved a bunch of $.

I know plenty of people love that Artisan one, so you may be fine... But I kind of loathed the one we had in the Food Lab. I really disliked the tilt head and it seemed to struggle more with thicker doughs. Not insurmountable, especially if you're not doing stuff like bagels all the time. I just much, much prefer the Pro line, which has a bowl lift and just seems sturdier in general. Costco typically carries it for a decent price and often puts it on sale (though out of stock at the moment) -- got a new one for the lab for $250 last summer. It does sporadically get put on crazy discounts from places like Target, too. Or, as Olga says, go for a refurbished Pro. I think it's worth it. Should last you a very long time. Mine is probably 15 years old now.

Heidelberg Bakery in Arlington makes a good one. La Caprice in Columbia Heights makes great cakes, and it would be worth calling to see if they make a black forest cake.

Thanks!

This might seem counterintuitive given the U.S. preference for light flaky pie crust, but what do you think? How would you make it and use it?

That is actually one place where I wouldn't use it. At least I don't think so, though maybe folks on the team might have different ideas. There is no leavener in pie crust and it's a mixture of fat, flour and a bit of water to create those flaky layers... Does anyone else have any thoughts on this?

I think you mean using sourdough discard in your pie crust recipe, and it's a great idea! You wouldn't want to use much to preserve the flakiness of it, but replacing the liquid with starter can actually help tenderize the dough.

Which is why the French buy them daily. I guess my only answer is to move to France.

Sadly, unlike the French, we're not blessed by a boulangerie on every corner :(

We live just inside the Beltway and see raccoons, etc. We have never had an issue with our compost pile in the at least a dozen years we’ve been doing it. Husband puts in leaves in the fall for the green/brown and we seem good. We don’t compost meat or dairy but do eggshells and veggies. Worst thing we’ve had is things growing out of it...

Great!

Hi - I diced a handful of onions and then froze them in a Pyrex container thinking that I'd save myself a lot of time making dinners in the future ... but now I have a frozen block of onions. I have to remember to take them out a few minutes early and then "chisel" away a chunk to cook with. Not ideal. Any tips on making this block of onions easier to deal with? Any tips on what to do in the future to make it easier to take a small portion? And could i do the same thing with garlic? Thanks!

Not sure what to do with your current block other than cook the whole lot at once and make an onion heavy dish. In the future, freeze the onions in the bag flat in one layer (you can rest it on a cutting board or sheet tray so it stays in the right shape) that way it'll be easier to snap off however much you want. 

Give this a read: How to freeze fresh vegetables while preserving their best qualities. It's full of good tips. Garlic can be frozen whole or chopped.


Hi all,
Thanks for joining us today. We enjoyed the chat, as we always do. Sounds like lots of people have lots of produce, so don't forget to check our Recipe Finder for ideas about how to use all of that summer bounty.

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.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a staff reporter for Food and writes a weekly column on casual dining.
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.
Daniela Galarza
Daniela is a Food newsletter writer.
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