Free Range on Food
Wednesday, March 5, 2008; 1:00 PM
A chat with the Food section staff is a chance for you to ask questions, offer suggestions and share information with other cooks and food lovers. It is a forum for discussion of food trends, ingredients, menus, gadgets and anything else food-related.
Each chat, we will focus on topics from the day's Food section. You can also read the transcripts of past chats. Do you have a question about a particular recipe or a food-related anecdote to share? The Food section staff goes Free Range on Food every Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET. Read about the staff of the Food section.
The transcript follows.
Joe: Welcome, chatters, to Free Range, the online chat that boldly goes where no other chat has gone before. Actually, that would be Gene Weingarten's chat. Here we do what we do best: answer your food questions.
So what's on your plate today? Did Jane's cutlery piece get you thinking about knorks, sporks, knoons and spives? Do you have tix to the Nats' opening day just to try out the new food? Are you peeling a celery root as we speak, or cooking up some whole-grain quick bread?
We're here to help you do any and all of that, and more. And for our favorite posts, as always, we have giveaway books: "The New Whole Grains Cookbook" by Robin Asbell; "The Complete Whole Grains Cookbook" by Judith Finlayson; and, for something completely different, "Barguments" by Doug Hanks, a little tome with suggestions on questions to pose to your drinking buddies to stimulate pubby conversation. (Example: "You'll be chained to a celebrity for a month. Pick one: 50 Cent, Rachael Ray, or Michael Moore.")
Let's chat... And welcome to our special monthly guest, In Season columnist Stephanie Sedgwick.
Food Lover, D.C.: Wednesday is my favorite day of the week -- it's Food and Dining day in the post! I was a bit surprised this morning to see the new format. Im really going to try to get used to it but im fearful I may miss something! The old format was oh so easy to follow as everything was right in a line. Any chance we can get an icon at the end that directs us to the next article or any pointers on the best way to navigate?! Many thanks!
Joe: Hi, Food Lover -- We're in love with the new format, because we think it allows us to show the content in a much more dynamic way. It's so easy to navigate -- everything's there, really! And it's more categorized now, so, for instance, if you love Dinner in Minutes generally, you'll know just where to find it week in and week out on the page, and it'll jump out at you, rather than just being yet another thing in the lineup. Same with Tom's restaurant reviews, the wine, beer and spirits columns, and more. Stick with it, and we think you'll come to love it as much as we do...
Silver Spring, Md.: Love the chats. I get so many ideas them, so I am pressing my luck and hoping you will answer a specific need.
We are having two friends over for cocktails, a casual dinner and an evening of cards this weekend. They are pretty picky about meat, so we always end up roasting a chicken when they come over, and I usually serve it with salad and some great crusty bread and cheese.
I'd like to change things up a bit this time. I'm all for the chicken, but I am at a loss for new side dishes. I'm not looking for traditional sides but thought that I could serve roast chicken with some interesting tapas-type items and a fun, new cocktail. I would greatly appreciate any ideas that you could give me.
Jane Black: Not sure what you mean by a tapas item? Do you mean a tapas to go with a cocktail? And then you'll serve chicken with the usual sides? Or something to go with the chicken?
Knork dork: If the knork is sharp enough to cut a carrot, wouldn't it also cut your mouth when you ate with it? Also, do you think the ramen thingie--would it work well with spaghetti and meatballs or chicken noodle soup? Or is really just a one-dish wonder?
Jane Black: Nope, the side of the knork doesn't cut your mouth when you eat with it. It's simply beveled; there's no sharp or serrated edge. Though our tester at La Cuisine felt that the tines turned up too sharply and scraped the top of her mouth. (That didn't bother me.)
As for the ramen spoon, you could use it for chicken noodle soup but the idea is you need a fork for long, tangly noodles and a spoon for soup. I'm not sure I've ever had a problem with using just a spoon for chicken noodle or spaghetti. It would work but it wouldn't be necessary.
Recipies & nutrition info: So glad you include nutritional information with recipies. Was hoping you might be able to include the size of a serving as well. I noticed today's bacon-cheese cornbread is 260 cals per serving, but could not locate the measurement for what a 260-cal portion is. Given the addictive quality of cornbread, I may need that to keep the waistline in check... Thanks!
Bonnie: This is a 12-serving recipe made in a 9-inch pan, so you can do the math. The calorie count is enough to give one pause before inhaling 2 pieces -- but if those pieces are warm, good luck to you!
Flour Fears in Alexandria, Va.: I bought two bags of the King Arthur white whole wheat flour a couple of months back (in a two for one deal). I hadn't realized that they could turn rancid on me. Am I sitting on a ticking time bomb here? So far the open bag has not gone off (and so I assume the same is true for the bag yet to be opened). Should I rush them to the freezer post haste?
Also, instead of using the whole wheat and regular flour mixture for the Irish Soda Bread, could I sub in the white whole wheat? I've had good luck using it as a replacement for white flour in cinnamon buns and banana muffins. (A tad dry, but very edible).
Bonnie: As long as you've been keeping them in a cool dry place, they should be okay to pop in a large, heavy-duty resealable plastic food storage bag (with as much air out of it as possible) and send to the freezer.
Flour sub-wise, I think the combo of whole wheat and regular flour keeps the bread from being too dense. Elinor's not available for questions today. Why not make 1 loaf according to the recipe, and 1 your way, and see what happens?
Victorian sponge cake:: I missed last week but did enjoy the story of the cake that went whoops! Would that cake work in a trifle also?
Bonnie: We'll pass your compliment on to Frances Stead Sellers (and to her daughter, Cora). Yes, it'd be swell for a trifle.
Joe: Bonus question: Who said, Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle. No Googling allowed!
Arlington/Sweden: I tried these little chocolate ball cookies in Sweden and my cousin just sent me the recipe, pasted below. My question is, where can I find the kind of sugar to roll them in? It's not just granulated sugar, but tiny opaque/white little granules of sugar that tops a lot of Swedish baked goods but that I've never seen around here. Any ideas?
100 g butter
3/4 dl sugar
2 tea spoons vanilla sugar
2-4 (I usually take 4) table spoons cacao
3 dl (porridge) oats
First mix butter and sugar, then add the rest of the ingredients. Finally, make small balls and roll them in cocunut flakes or sugar (not ordinary sugar, but something with bigger grains...)
Joe: I'll bet it's Lars' Own Swedish Pearl Sugar.
Washington, D.C.: When making mini quiches or tarts from a full-sized quiche or tart recipe, is it necessary to adjust the ingredient proportions, or just the cooking time?
Bonnie: A shorter cooking time, unless the quiche filling has some very dense ingredients.
Risotto question: Hi. Love the risotto recipe, hate gorgonzola. What can I substitute?
Bonnie: Hate is such a strong word. Maybe a mild feta? You want a cheese that won't go stringy-gooey on you. Using Gorgonzola means you don't need much, if any, salt (I think 3 ounces of Parmigiano-Reggiano would be too salty, fyi). So keep that in mind when seasoning just before serving.
NoVa food fan: Foodies--just wanted to say what a great idea it is telling us the most popular recipe requests for the month. Another idea: How about telling us, say, the 5 most popular dessert requests, or chicken or pasta, etc.
Joe: Glad you're liking that! We'll see how it goes and then think of breaking it down further. Maybe at year's end we'll do a big breakdown!
Takoma, Washington, D.C.: I'm in need of a marble block for rolling out pastry. I'm looking for a fairly good-sized block (probably 20" x 20" - I realize this will be heavy). I've heard that countertop places are a good source for marble since the hole that they cut out for the sink is essentially the size I need and it's just remnant for them. But here's the question -- do you know of any countertop maker that sells off their remnant marble pieces? If so, where? Also, is there anything that needs to be done to the marble before it can be used for pastry - some sort of sealing? Thanks,
Jane Touzalin: You can certainly call a marble place near you to find out. But really, a slab of polished marble specifically for kitchen use (with little legs or rubber bumps on the bottom so it stays in place) is cheaper than you may think. I got one a few years ago at a big retailer (Linens & Things or some similar place), and it cost under $20. But maybe some other chatters have experience with the countertop-seller route.
Playgroup: What type of things could I serve at a 9 a.m. playgroup to toddlers (18 mo-2 yrs) and their moms? It's too early for cakes, pies, brownies, or cookies, and while kids are always up for a snack, most moms have just had breakfast. I would prefer something I can make/bake the day before as I have enough trouble getting myself showered and dressed before the doorbell starts ringing at 9 a.m. Thanks!!
Jane Black: Why not just set out some fresh fruit and nice bread? Actually, my swedish quick bread might be perfect. It's half way between multi-grain bread and cake.
Here's the recipe.
Nats food: I just bought tickets for a Nats game yesterday and was looking forward to seeing the new park, but now I'm really looking forward to hunting down the local food vendors. I think it's great that they will be there in addition to the standard ballpark fare. I am a huge fan of the Orioles' Camden Yards mostly because of that bbq stand that puffs billows of smokey pulled pork and brisket smoke near the main entrance.... but now I may become a bigger fan of the Nats park. Game? What game?
Joe: You're my kind of fan. I couldn't care less about baseball, as all my friends (and coworkers) know, but the food? I can work up a cheer for that.
Washington, D.C.: I have a lot of buckwheat groats, left over from making kasha, which I love but my husband does not. Is there anything else I can do with them? Do they work like wheatberries in salads, for example?
Bonnie: I'm sure chatters can provide options here, but one thing you could do is make a hot porridge (one part buckwheat groats to 2 parts liquid, like milk). Cook it slowly to make sure it stays tender.
Bethesda, Md.: Bonnie and Joe,
This is Miss "Chocolate Covered Grapes Will Change Your Life" from the International Food and Wine Festival last Friday. I just wanted to say thank you for all your suggestions. The recipes you brought over were absolutely wonderful and Frank and I had so much fun.
For anyone interested, there's a great event at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia with a movie, presentation of Saui Arabian art, and of course, food. Starts at 7:00 pm. I got tix from www.internationalclubdc.com
The food featured includes: Spinach Filo Pastry, Cheese Herb Pastry, Grape Leaves, Tabouleh Salad, Hummus, Arabic Salad with Tomato,cucumbers, feta, and olives, Caesar Salad, Boneless Breast of Chicken Kabob with onions and colorful peppers, Wedding Rice (Basmati)with pine nuts and raisins, Lamb Kibbeh with cucumber yogurt sauce, Roasted Beef Au Jus, Herb Oven Roasted Potatoes, Fried Cauliflower in lemon brown butter, Green Beans with Almonds, A Fresh fruit display with Melons, Pineapple, Kiwi, Strawberries, and Grapes. Pita Bread and Rolls, Baklava , Middle Eastern Almond, Honey, and Butter cookies, Lemon Cake.
Joe: Hi, grape lover! So glad to see you on the chat. Bonnie and I had a blast at the opening reception for the festival, and were thrilled that our little Chocolate Grapes and Lazy (I mean Lacy) Parmesan Wafers were such a hit in the company of much more highly constructed food by great DC chefs.
Enjoy the Saudi food!
Silver Spring, Md.: For years I have been making a very popular cheesecake. It has a graham cracker crust which I have diligently sculpted by hand. Once, quite a while ago, I gave this recipe to a baker in Europe who had never tasted American-style cheescake. He filled up one side of his store with my cakes the next morning, and sold them out by lunch. I was really impressed by how perfect his crusts were. They looked as if they had been pressed in some sort of a form device. Do you have any idea what he used? Is this something that is available for home use? (Obviously, bakery factories have such presses, but I'm guessing there must be something small for use in one's kitchen, too.) I've never been able to find anything like this.
Bonnie: Hmm. A little more info -- the crust went up the sides of the cake, or mostly on the bottom? How big were the cakes? Sometimes all it takes is pressing the crust evenly using another pan of about the same size.
Woodley Park, Washington, D.C.: Hi,
I have an embarassingly stupid question (yay for anonymity!) that I've been wondering about for awhile:
I have an old recipe for chocolate cake that calls for milk soured with vinegar. Can you use any kind of vinegar? I think I've heard you can also sour with lemon juice, so I was wondering if something like white wine vinegar as opposed to plain white vinegar would be ok.
Jane Black: It's such a small amount that you can use any kind. (I mean you wouldn't want cilantro vinegar but you know what I mean.) A white wine vinegar will be fine.
Washington, D.C.: Sob, Sob
I painstakingly made a wonderful Syrian Chickpea soup on Sunday. I tasted the end product and deemed it wonderful and needing just a few grinds of pepper. I held the pepper mill over the soup (actually it held grains of paradise) and turned and plop, the top fell off and the entire contents of the grinder fell into the soup. Now this soup is very thick and there was no way to strain them out so I tried spooning off the top but still a lot remained having fell to the bottom. What could I do to alleviate this error without throwing out the soup?
Joe: Oh, no! Well, if so many fell to the bottom, after spooning some off the top could you have gently poured the soup into another pot and left the remaining peppercorns at the bottom?
Arlington, Va.: While looking to incorporate new, healthier foods in to my family's diet, I picked up the following items at Trader Joe's last week:
I have no idea what to do with either of them, and an extensive google search did not give me many options. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, particularly if they're things that would appeal to two preschoolers who prefer pasta and blueberries to any other food. Thank you in advance.
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: I've seen a lot of lentils, but "beluga" is new to me. Are they black and round? I'm thinking they might be. I'm sure they can be cooked like most lentils. Simmer in water or broth until tender, then added to just about anything, salads, soups and the like. Cook some and then toss with dressing, diced carrots, bell peppers-you get the idea.
As for quinoa, you can use it like a grain or rice. I'm not the hugest fan, but it's is something new to serve for dinner beside pasta, potatoes and rice. Oh, I almost forgot to mention-it's a nutrition powerhouse.
Joe: Here's a link to Steph's recent In Season column on lentils.
We have several quinoa recipes in our Recipe Finder. I tested this Quinoa Pilaf recently, and loved it, probably because it includes several of my favorite things: dried cherries, almonds, and broccoli rabe.
Chocolate Covered Grapes: Hi all,
When does olive oil go rancid once you've opened it? I know it is supposed to be placed in a cool, dry place, but not sure how long I can keep it on the shelf before I have to throw it out. Also, does it need to be stored in a dark place or should I leave it out on the counter?
Jane Black: When it goes rancid, you'll know it! A dark place will make it last longer as will keeping it away from the heat but basically olive oil is best used within about 6 months. Also, check the expiry date when you buy it. If it's very soon, choose another bottle.
Joe: Your chatter name makes me think we also met you on Friday night! Unmask yourself!
Quiche vs. Tart: I just bought a tart pan and would love a dinner recipe (veggie) to try it with. I made quiche once, but the whole crust process took about 4 hours. Is this typical? Will tarts be the same way? I'm starting to think I ought to give up the work, return the pan, and buy frozen ready made.
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: How about this? Buy frozen crust. Let it defrost, transfer to your tart pan. Pretend you made it.
Arlington, Va.: In keeping with the whole-grain theme, I have a question about white whole wheat flour. I see King Arthur carries it but have never tried it. Is it white flour or whole wheat? In using it, will my baked goods turn out the same as all-purpose flour baked goods? I never use 100% whole wheat flour in a recipe-do I have to cut the white whole wheat with regular all-purpose? Thanks!
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: It's a special variety of wheat. It's replaced "regular" wheat flour in my pantry. It gives you the whole wheat taste without the heaviness but I still like to mix cut it with some white flour. Experiment and find the ratio you like.
Oak Hill: Question for Bonnie about today's risotto recipe: Can you explain more about toasted Israeli couscous? I've seen it in boxes and know it looks like little beads, but do I have to toast it? And how would I do that--in the oven for xx minutes? Or is there a specific product called toasted Israeli couscous, which seems as hard to find as the fregola. Details, please.
Bonnie: Hi there. It's larger, pearl couscous, and from what I can tell, most of it has been toasted already, as in these brands, which I've seen in stores around D.C., including my Bethesda Giant: Casbah and Osem. Whether or not the package says it's toasted, you could certainly spread it on a rimmed baking sheet for 10 minutes in a 350-degree oven. But then Dinner in Minutes might take a few minutes longer.
Banana Bread: I have a favorite banana bread recipe that calls for 350 degrees for 55 minutes. Lately, the top has been quite brown and the bottom middle has been gooey. I cover the top with foil, place on lowest rack and cook for another 20 minutes. It gets cooked, but still a bit soggy. I bought a oven thermometer and my oven is reading correctly. Would a new pan help? The only thing about the recipe that I'm not following is to sift the dry ingredients three times; I'm only doing it once, but I can't see how this would make a difference. What do you guys/gals think?
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: I'd use a smaller pan or one with a hole, like a tube or bundt pan. That should take care of things. It's a pretty common problem with dense batters. Good luck!
Toddler Group: My kids love these and they are "sort-of" healthy...
Prep Time: 15 min
Start to Finish: 40 min
Makes: 4 dozen appetizers
3 cups thinly sliced unpeeled zucchini (4 small)
1 cup Original Bisquick (R) mix
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano leaves
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and sides of rectangular pan, 13x9x2 inches.
2. Stir together all ingredients. Spread in pan.
3. Bake about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into 2-inch squares; cut squares diagonally in half into triangles.
High Altitude (3500-6500 ft) Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
Jane Black: This reminds me of my grandma's zucchini casserole that she makes at Thanksgiving.
Joe: This sounds good, but at 9 a.m.? I'm not so sure. Then again, I'm barely conscious at 9 a.m. (I'm SO not a morning person.)
Chicken and tapas again: Thanks so much for choosing my question!
I was looking for some options to go with the chicken that aren't traditional sides . . . or sides at all. Maybe more like a variety of small plate items to be served with the chicken. (and the drinks. . .I imagine that we will be sipping the cocktails all evening rather than switching to wine.)
That said, I am all ears if you have suggestions to go with the cocktails before dinner.
Jane Black: I see. Well, despite the cocktail choice, I'd say keep it simple and go Italian. Roast some colorful peppers, serve them alongside or with a slice of fresh mozzarella tucked inside. Set out a plate of mixed olives. Add a simple bruschetta either with tomatoes, garlic and basil (if you can find any good tomatoes)or use roasted beets and parmesan (Batali adds a few caraway seeds to the mix) or sauteed wild mushrooms with whatever fresh herbs you have on hand. Does that help?
Jane Black: Anyone else got suggestions?
Manhattan, N.Y.: I'm visiting New York, and would love to have that great New York specialty, bagels and lox. Just one problem: I don't care for cured fish! Then I had an idea. Lox looks kind of like that pickled ginger they give you with sushi. Could I just ask the bagel guys for some pickled ginger on my bagel with a schmear?
Jane Black: Ummmm...I'd be shocked if you found an authentic bagel place that happened to have pickled ginger on hand. You might have to make that one at home...
Fairfax, Va.: I'm hosting a book group discussion of Michael Pollan's excellent book "The Omnivore's Dilemma" later this week. I'd like to provide suitable refreshments to go with the theme of the book. I've got a freezer full of grass-fed beef and a Whole Foods nearby. Any suggestions?
Joe: To keep in the spirit of "The Omnivore's Dilemma," get thee to a farmers' market rather than shopping at WF. You want this food to be local, local, local. Check out these links to the piece Jane and Bonnie did last fall with cooking teachers cooking from the market, and maybe that'll spark some ideas. The season is different now, but some ideas will translate.
Pancakes: I posted this question last week, but it didn't really fit into the conversation. I like to make buttermilk whole wheat pancakes on Saturday mornings, really so I have something to put maple syrup on. Hubby says they're horrid. How can I make wholesome pancakes that hubby would be willing to eat?
Bonnie: Maybe upgrade your recipe with this one, which we'll put into the Recipe Finder database by day's end. Or make him some French toast using a good multigrain or whole-wheat bread, both of which are equal opportunity providers for maple syrup.
10 to 12 pancakes
These pancakes have a tender, slightly dense texture and are best served straight out of the skillet; if left to cool, they turn rubbery.
The dry ingredients may be combined in advance, portioned into plastic bags and frozen.
Because the recipe calls for no eggs or buttermilk, the pancakes are less fluffy than some but are vegan-friendly.
From "The Big Book of Vegetarian," by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley (Chronicle, 2005):
Generous 1/3 cup quick-cooking or rolled oats
Scant 1 cup flour
1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons white or light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
11/2 to 2 cups milk (may use dairy, soy, rice or nut milk)
2 tablespoons light molasses (may substitute light brown sugar or maple syrup)
Vegetable oil or butter for the skillet
Butter and/or maple syrup for serving
Berries or sliced bananas, mango or papaya (optional)
In a food processor or blender, grind the oats until a powder forms. You should have about 1/3 cup.
In a medium bowl, combine the ground oats, all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together the milk and molasses until blended. Add the dry ingredients; mix just until blended. The batter should be very runny; set it aside for a few minutes to thicken slightly.
Heat a griddle or large, heavy skillet over medium heat until hot. Add the oil or butter. For each pancake, pour 1/3 to 1/2 cup of batter onto the hot griddle or skillet. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface, about 2 minutes. Before turning the pancakes, lift the edge to check that the undersides are golden. Turn and cook until the second sides are golden, 1 to 2 minutes more. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve immediately with butter and/or maple syrup and fruit, if desired.
VARIATION: You may substitute buckwheat for whole-wheat flour. The batter may require slightly more milk.
Recipe tested by Renee Schettler; e-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Per serving (approximate; based on 3 pancakes): 294 calories, 9 gm protein, 58 gm carbohydrates, 4 gm fat, 12 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 510 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Here's my suggestion: Cut the wholesomeness by half. Use half white flour and then mix in another flour or two, oats ground in the food processor, cornmeal, whole wheat or bran. Add a little more sugar to the batter, a tablespoon or two and he'll be loving those hotcakes.
Portland, Oreg.: Cookware dilemma: I have a set of Calphalon that I've been using for years. And then I got a dishwasher. Although I have been living in western civilization my whole life, this is my very first dishwasher.
And .... I didn't know not to put the Calaphalon in it. By the time I figured this out, my good-sized sauce pan has become, well, un-anodized?
First, is this fixable? Second, if not, is it still ok to use the pan? I'm guessing maybe not for acidic foods? OK to boil potatoes in though?
Oh--and last week somebody asked about savory muffins. Random Order Coffeehouse here makes a fabuluous breakfast muffin. It's a corn muffin with cheese, green chiles and bacon. I don't think it would hard to replicate at home.
Jane Touzalin: The folks at Calphalon tell me that no, there's no way to re-anodize a pan that has lost its surface. But the good news: "It's perfectly safe to use," a consumer relations specialist there assured me. Even if you use it to cook acidic foods, such as tomato sauce, it won't change the flavor of your food, she said -- but it is likely to stain the pan. So carry on. And from now on, hand-wash those pans with hot, sudsy water.
Jane Black: OK chatters. I have a question. I got a new glass top stove and while I was testing the duck recipe last week, the sauce boiled up and spilled on the hot stove and, instantly, burned. (Hence the helpful instruction in the recipe, "stir occasionally to make sure it doesn't boil over.")
I've scrubbed the stove with Fantastic, soap and water and a lot of elbow grease. Then I read that Bon Ami, a non-scratch cleaning product, would do the trick. But no luck. Suggestions? Anyone conquered this problem?
Trifles/Perfection: Michelangelo!! My memory for random quotes pays off. And yum, trifle...
Frederick, Md.: Try making chicken salad and serving it with small rolls and assorted crackers. Accompany it with apple slices, grapes and assorted chesses. Or you could have a make your own nachos event where people assemble their own plate of nachos. You can also keep the sides light by serving cole slaw or summer salad instead of regular salad. Just rotate the variety and know that you will never be able to please everyone all the time.
Jane Black: Here's another great idea.
Bethesda, Md.: For sides for roasted chicken, I'd do a nice cranberry sauce and mix in walnuts and maybe orange zest. Or, make a great stuffing, but include something sweet inside (like apples or raisins) and place them to bake in the oven. I have found great individually portioned baking tins in different shapes (hearts for instance) that would add to the presentation of it.
Jane Black: And another...
Richmond, Va.: Send that knork over to the Brits -- it drives me crazy how they eat balancing food on top of their upsidedown forks! Hey, it's BOWL-SHAPED for a reason, why try to defy gravity?
Jane Black: Yep. I've always thought that's why they serve mushy peas. Otherwise, how would they get them into their mouths.
re: "Buy frozen crust. Let it defrost, transfer to your tart pan. Pretend you made it. ": or buy the refrigerated ones you can roll out
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: I prefer the frozen crust-it taste more like homemade. The prepackaged refrigerator dough has a slightly off taste to me. Just an opinion....
Upper Marlboro, Md.: This is totally off the subject, but I would love to win the prize...so why not? For quick entertaing, try stirring peanuts into egg salad. It gives the egg salad a delicious, sweet crunch and boosts the protein as well. By the way, it's fantastic on fresh bagels with chopped carrots.
Jane Black: Points for honesty and a good suggestion. Though who wins is up to Joe, not me.
Irish lass needs help!: I've invited some friends over for corned beef on March 15th, and thought I'd perhaps give colcannon a try. Problem is, I've never actually made it! Any suggestions or tips, or perhaps a recipe? (Looked in the database but couldn't find any.) Or is it really as easy as adding cabbage to mashed potatoes? Thanks!
Bonnie: Here's one from the deep archives, and it gives kale as an alternative to cabbage. We'll try to get this in there, as well. Thanks for checking!
1/2 pound kale or cabbage
2 strips bacon (optional)
1 pound potatoes
2 small leeks or 4 scallions
3/4 cup milk or light (table) cream
4 ounces unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature, cut in small pieces
Salt and freshly ground white or black pepper, to taste
Cook kale or cabbage and bacon in water until very tender and bacon is cooked. Drain and put into a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Puree, scraping down a few times as needed. Set aside and keep warm.
Peel and cut the potatoes into large chunks. Place in a large saucepan and add water to cover. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer over medium heat until tender.
Meanwhile, finely chop the leeks or scallions, using both the green and white parts. Place them in a small saucepan over a low simmer with just enough of the milk or cream to cover. Cook until soft.
When potatoes are tender, drain and place them back in the saucepan. Mash or beat potatoes adding any of the remaining milk or cream as you do so. Beat in cooked leeks and milk and butter, then kale or cabbage. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn into a heated serving dish and serve immediately.
Note: To be completely authentic, don't add butter directly to mashed potatoes. Instead, melt butter and just before serving make a depression in center of potatoes and pour it in.
Per serving: 268 calories, 5 gm protein, 25 gm carbohydrates, 18 gm fat, 10 gm saturated fat, 47 mg cholesterol, 224 mg sodium
Rockville, Md.: Not a question; a recipe! My favorite quick bread, and the easiest I've ever done --
Mary Ellen's Beer Bread
3 cups self-rising flour
3 tablespoons sugar
12 oz. beer
Mix. Pour into a buttered loaf pan, and bake at 350 until golden brown. I always make it for St. Patrick's Day, because it comes from my husband's late great-aunt Mary Ellen, who came direct from the Auld Sod. Enjoy!
Jane Black: Thanks to everyone for pitching in. Here's a great quickbread for the playgroup mom.
Odenton, Md.: What's the general rule when one loses power and has food in the fridge/freezer? How many hours is the throw out or keep threshold? I lost power about 2 a.m., left for work about 7:30 (still no power) and believe it was back on shortly thereafter.
Joe: The "temperature danger zone" is between 40 and 140, and foods shouldn't stay inside that range for more than two hours. Assuming you didn't track the temps of fridge and freezer, I'd say you're more in danger safety-wise with the stuff in the fridge, since it would surely come up above 40 degrees pretty quickly. (Fridges only run about 25 to 40 degrees, anyway.) So unfortunately, in my book, all that stuff is gonzo and you should toss. The freezer is more complicated. How did it look when you were leaving for work? If it still seemed mighty chilly in there, you're probably OK safety-wise, but things might suffer some texture differences from the thawing and refreezing that occurred.
Woodley Park, Washington, D.C.: Dear Rangers,
I had problems with the recipe for Hardly Cobb Salad from last week. Just about every ingredient it calls for is on my favorite foods list but the sum of the parts didn't add up. For one thing, the vinegrette calls for too much red wine vinegar (1/3 cup for one serving). I understand the need for acid to contrast with the richness of the avocado, but the flavor was too dominate and astringent.
I also thought the shrimp stuffing needed a more substantial binder than the dab of mustard. I was thinking a bit of mayo would do the trick although that would send the fat and calories through the roof with the fat already present from the avocado and turkey bacon.
I haven't had a chance to try the recipe again but when I do, I plan to reduce the amount of vinegar and scoop out a bit of the avocado to more efficiently hold the filling and also to mash add to the shrimp and bacon mixture for better binding. What do you think?
Unless I did something wrong in my preparation, I'm surprised this made it past your recipe testers in its current formulation.
Bonnie: The tester did suggest a few modifications, that recipe author Erin Zimmer was happy to employ. As for adapting it to your personal taste, good for you -- that's what cooking's about, especially in this case. Erin would be the first to say that what she likes/makes does not go for everyone.
Silver Spring - quinoa and lentils: Here is a favorite recipe from some paper called the Washington Post, a 1993 article. It should work with beluga lentils just fine.
Quinoa, Lentil and Tomato Salad
Quinoa, an extraordinarily nutritious, delicious grain-like seed as versatile as rice but with more pizzazz, is available in health and natural food stores. Serve this salad as an entree with a hearty bread and a green salad.
1/2 cup dry lentils, washed, drained and picked over
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 bay leaf
8 fennel seeds
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed thoroughly and drained
1 medium onion
3/4 cup fresh parsley
4 large red tomatoes
Romaine or Boston lettuce leaves
4 hard-boiled eggs (optional)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
In a 2-quart pan, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil, add the lentils and let them soak for 15 minutes. Add the rosemary, bay leaf, fennel seeds and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Bring all to a boil again, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat to low and simmer the lentils, covered, for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are done but still firm. Drain, if necessary, and remove the bay leaf.
While the lentils are soaking, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add the quinoa and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; return to a boil, stirring.
Turn the heat to low and simmer the quinoa, covered, until done, about 12 minutes; set aside. Do not overcook: quinoa is best served "al dente."
While lentils cook, chop onion and parsley. Peel, core and seed tomatoes, dicing 3 1/2 of the tomatoes, but cutting remaining half into 5 wedges for garnish. Wash the lettuce. Peel and cut the eggs into wedges (if using). Set everything aside.
Combine the quinoa and lentils in a bowl. Add the chopped onion, vinegar, olive oil and pepper, stirring to blend. Gently mix in the diced tomatoes, their juice, and all but 1 tablespoon of the parsley.
(To this point, the salad can be prepared the day before. Refrigerate and bring back to room temperature before serving.) Arrange the lettuce leaves on a platter, mound the salad in the center, and garnish it with tomato wedges, remaining tablespoon of parsley and eggs, if used.
Per serving: 302 calories, 9 gm protein, 35 gm carbohydrates, 15 gm fat, 2 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 23 mg sodium
Joe: I don't know this publication, but it sounds cool.
Sob Sob: I sure did try pouring it into another pot but not enough came out - the soup now is dotted with them - oh well. . . . . live and learn.
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Don't feel bad. You're in good company. I spilled coffee on my stove and blew the starter on one of the burners. Everyone makes mistakes.
re: Fruity Swedish Quick Bread: You know half of those recipes I don't have in my pantry and I would never have another recipe in which to use them (mork syrup, rye, buttermilk). Are there any substitutions possible for this healthy specimen of a cakey bread?
Jane Black: Hmmm. Yeah, it requires a little shopping. (I bought 3 bottles of the mork sirap last time I went to Ikea.) Obviously, you could substitute but once you take out all those things, it's not really the same bread.
Didn't someone just post a banana bread recipe? It's not as "exotic" but it might be a quicker solution.
Chili: I was watching a rerun of Sara's Secrets the other day and she made Cincinnati chili. It looked good and I was planning on making it, but then from other reviews on the internet it seemed like it wasn?t all that authentic. The three major things I discovered were that it needs cocoa powder, tomato paste not sauce, and you need to boil the meat not brown it. I've never boiled beef and that sounds kind of gross. Does anyone know of a good authentic recipe or do you think making these adjustments would be good enough? I've never actually been to Cincinnati so I wouldn't really know the difference; as long as it's good I'm happy. Here's her recipe:
Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: And John's Pizza doesn't taste like the pizza in Naples, I still love it. Enjoy and let others concern themselves with authenticity.
Quinoa: Don't forget to rinse the quinoa! I love love love this grain, but if you do not rinse it very well in cold water, it is too bitter to eat. It has a bitter coating that dissolves in water.
Here is my technique: I measure the quinoa. Put double that amount of water in a pot on the stove to boil. While the water heats, put the quinoa into a large bowl. The bowl needs to be big enough to add a couple of inches of water, plus your hands. Add cold water, then scrub at the quinoa. I pick up a handful of the grains between my hands and literally scrub. I do this a few times, trying to get most of the grains scrubbed. The water becomes cloudy. Carefully pour this water off through a fine strainer (not a colander). You don't have to dump all the grains into the strainer, just catch the errant ones. Add a little water and pour it off again. Do this whole thing a total of three times. At the end of it all, rinse it well, drain it well, and pour it into the heated water on the stove. When it boils, turn it down to a simmer and add a lid.
It will take about 15 minutes to cook. You'll see the cute little germ uncurl when it is done.
It is delicious!
Bonnie: Ancient Harvest brand quinoa does not need rinsing. Worked great with the recipe Joe mentioned earlier.
Omnivore's Dilemma: Yeah, a local Farmers Market in the middle of the winter? The only one I know of is the Falls Church City one on Saturdays. I went, and got eggs, butter, and apples. But between now and Friday, I think I'm stuck with Fresh Fields. (I can walk to it in my Birkenstocks OR drive my Prius.)
One more thing on an unrelated topic -- to avoid having your whole wheat flour go rancid: We buy the wheat berries and grind them ourselves. When the whole wheat flour is fresh it doesn't taste at ALL cardboardy. Of course this requires investing in a grain mill. Before we did that, we bought the flour directly from the Great Harvest Bread Company, which mills it fresh daily, and kept it in the freezer.
Joe: Buying local produce in the middle of the winter is exactly the kind of challenge Michael Pollan and others suggest you take on. And sometimes you have to plan in advance! The Dupont market's also open year-round, as is Eastern Market. Both on weekends, true, so not to scold, but you could've gone last weekend!
Tyson's Corner: For the glass top stove -- try cream of tartar and vinegar (preferably white). It seems to be pretty good at getting off sticky, goopy stuff, like the crud that gets on Pyrex casseroles.
While I'm here -- does anyone know where one can buy pre-made Felafels?
Jane Black: I wonder if it will work if it's already burned on though.
Flat top stove: There's a product for flat tops. Bed, Bath, and Beyond and the like carry it. I use my Pampered Chef scraper when I use the stuff since it's plastic.
Jane Black: Cool.
Glass top stove help:: You have to trust me, but use a clean, new razor blade (like a utility razor from a hardware store, not a people-razor) and gently, carefully, scrape off the burned stuff. Take your time, you'll be fine.
Jane Black: Scary!
Cleaning a glass top stove: Best way to get gunk off a glass top stove: use the edge of a bread bag fastener (the stiff tags that give a little). Also, there is a special non-scratch scraper for these stove tops that looks like an ice scraper but is much smoother (an ice scraper will scratch the glass).
I had one of these stove tops in Brussels. I miss it a lot. Bread bag tags were unknown there, so now I save them up for all sorts of uses.
Jane Black: Interesting...
Cheesecake: My husband loves cheesecake and I have never made him one. I'm going to surprise him next week. What can I do to make it special? I looked through the recipes in the recipe finder, but nothing was really floating my boat. He's kind of picky about certain foods - no maple syrup, no lemon. Chocolate is okay if it's not too much and not too rich. He does like raspberry and strawberry - but again, not too much of it. I'd like to do something special for the crust and perhaps a sauce or topping?
Bonnie: A hazelnut crust (or crust made from nuts that Mr. Picky likes best) can upgrade any cheesecake.
cleaning stove: Use microfiber cloths. They work to clean my oven with only water. I don't see why they wouldn't work on your stove.
Jane Black: Lots of good suggestions coming through. Thanks everyone! I hope one of them works!
re: Colcannon: Tyler Florence has a really easy colcannon recipe that's yummy that you can access from the food network.
Bonnie: We haven't tested it, but we'll take your word for it!
Germantown, Md.: I need to make up some comfort food for a sick friend. I'd like a chicken dish (but not soup), and I would like something that freezes well or reheats well in case others have also brought by food. I'm drawing a blank. Any favorites you can suggest?
Bonnie: The mother-in-law of colleague Beth Chang made a jook (boiled rice and water) with chicken in it for me when I was sick a few years back. I'll never forget it; warm and comforting. It hit the spot, and I did freeze some. We don't have a recipe in our database for it, but the recipe she used came from this cookbook: Every Grain of Rice.
Hate to say it, but: that's the problem with glass top stoves. They only look that way in the store. One spill and they look dirty. A 'regular' stove is easier to keep looking clean.
Jane Black: Yeah, but they're hard to find these days. And if you don't have gas, what other option do you have?
glasstop stove: I have one of these guys, and the burn marks are a doozy. I have no suggestions other than scraping scraping away. or else, living with them and the constant smell of burntness when the stove is on.
Jane Black: Say it ain't so.
Alexandria, Va.: Yes, for Cincinnati chili, you have to boil the meat, and yes, you do need cocoa powder. America's Test Kitchen has a pretty good recipe for it.
Tart dough: Why not just make the dough ahead of time? I have been perusing tart recipes in preparation for Easter and noticed that a number of theses say you can make the dough and bake it one day in advance of serving.
Joe: That's what I do. Double, triple, quadruple -- and freeze!
Odenton again: I opened the freezer just long enough to toss the meat from the fridge in it. Therefore, I don't know if it was cold or not.
Bonnie: Check the Web sites of extension services...the University of Maine says food in the freezer will stay below 40 degrees for up to 3 days (especially if the freezer's full).
Joe: Our top feels firm and lightly brown, so guess what that means? We're done!
Thanks for the great questions, everyone -- hope we helped you out this week. Now for the book winners: The chatter who bought quinoa and beluga lentils will get "The New Whole Grains Cookbook," with all sorts of healthful ideas. The chatter who asked about multigrain pancakes will get "The Complete Whole Grains Cookbook" for the same reason. And the chicken-and-tapas-and-cocktail chatter will get something to spark conversation that night: "Barguments."
Send your mailing info to email@example.com, and we'll get you your grub.
Until next week, happy cooking, eating and reading.
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