Free Range on Food: Cooking with Wine, Progressive Food Policy, Cookware Sources, Foods with Omega-3 and more

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The Food Section
of the Washington Post
Wednesday, March 25, 2009; 1:00 PM

A chat with the Washington Post Food Section staff is a forum for discussion of all things culinary: food trends, recipes, ingredients, menus, gadgets and more. You can share your thoughts on the latest Food section, get suggestions from fellow cooks and food lovers, or swap old-fashioned recipes the new-fashioned way. The Food section staff goes Free Range on Food every Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET.

A transcript follows.

Transcripts of past chats

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Joe Yonan: Greetings, Rangers and Rangettes, and welcome to your weekly serving of food, fresh from your friends here at the Post. What's on your cutting board, or in the deep dark recesses of your frosty freezer? Trying to kill that bottle of wine? More interested in food policy than salmon-cutting techniques? Dying to try Jose Andres's bizarre (in a good way) Bazaar?


You've come to the right place, naturally. Send your questions our way, and we'll slice and dice them and return them in edible form. Well, virtually, anyway.


And we'll have giveaways, natch. For our favorite posts, we'll have books: "The Gourmet's Guide to Cooking With Wine" by Alison Boteler and "Cooking With Wine" by Fiona Beckett.

Before we get started, though, I have a slew of important announcements:

1. Have you commented on a recipe yet? Did you realize that we started this? Very exciting, really -- now, you can weigh in on what you think about a particular recipe (hopefully after you've actually made it) and tell the world. You'll be able to see what others thought, how they rated it (with Sietsema-like stars and all), and add your two cents.

2. Are you following me on Twitter yet? Are you a member of the Post Food Section group on Facebook yet? Come on, people -- we're networking here, and we need you to network right back at us.

3. Speaking of Twitter, I'll be going to the Embassy Chef Challenge tonight at the Mexican Cultural Institute, and if you sign up to follow me, I'll be tweeting throughout the night about the dishes as I and the rest of the "celebrity" (cough cough) judging panel taste them. The other judges include Carla Hall, Rock Harper, Michel Richard, Kaz Okochi, Art Smith and Ris Lacoste. Quite a lineup!

4. We're looking for CSA scouts for a new project. If you signed up for a CSA for 2009 and are interested in sending us weekly updates about what you got in your box and how you used it, send an email with your contact information along with the name and location of the CSA, size of the share, and day of your delivery/pickup, to food@washpost.com, with the words CSA SCOUT in the subject line.

OK, enough already -- let's chat!

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Cooking with wine: Hi, Rangers,

I am dating a man who loves eggplant but can't have alcohol because of some liver or kidney impairment (not alcoholism). I'd like to surprise him with today's eggplant recipe, but obviously not if it could harm him! I always heard that alcohol cooks off. Is that true? Or is there a flavor substitute for wine that I could use (and in other recipes, for vodka and sherry), to play it safe?

Joe Yonan: I'm no doctor, and I won't play one on this chat (or TV), so I'm not sure if even a small amount of alcohol would be problematic for your BF. If so, you should stay away from wine completely, because even long cooking leaves some alcohol. In "The Gourmet's Guide to Cooking With Wine," Alison Boteler includes a chart of how much alcohol burns off from different techniques and cooking times, and even something simmered, baked, braised or roasted for 2 hours still has 10% of its alcohol. As for subs, I'd say nothing really gives the exact effect as wine, but a good stock plus perhaps a little vinegar (sherry vinegar if you're trying to replace sherry) can add some depth. Some people swear by apple cider in certain applications -- or you could of course play around with nonalcoholic wines, although I haven't tasted any of these that I actually liked. Anne Willan, in "Cooking With Wine," suggests the possibility of juices made from wine grapes, such as cabernet, like this one.

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Raleigh, N.C.: I just wanted to write to say thank you for your profile of Food Democracy Now, and for highlighting the national need for a change in food policy in America. I've been working for 10 years in the organic and sustainable foods industry, and have often been surprised at the lack of attention paid to what East and West Coasters call "fly over country." I started working in this industry in Nebraska, and have watched food policy shaped by the coasts, despite the huge amount of food produced for Americans by the central part of the country. People like Dave Murphy, Fred Kirschenman of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Ag (located in Iowa), Chuck Hassebrook of the Center for Rural Affairs (located in Nebraska), and Jim Riddle (former chair of the National Organic Standards Board, founder of the Independent Organic Inspectors Association, from Minnesota) have long been leading voices for sustainable and organic agriculture, and for preservation of family farming in America. These are the voices that we should be hearing, so that we can preserve our agricultural heritage.

Again, thank you for this article, and I look forward to seeing more in the future.

Jane Black: Thank you for the kind words. And you're right of course about all the good work that comes out of the midwest. Chuck and Fred and Jim have done great work.

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Silver Spring, Maryland: I have recently read that one area where food policy can immediately change is to promote the creation of local/regional farmers market networks to encourage and make direct marketed food more available to a broader consumer base. What other relatively easy changes can be made in the near term?

Jane Black: That's a hard question. What's easy? And what's are our priorities? There are programs, including one at the Crossroads market in Takoma Park, where people with food assistance EBT cards can double their money for fresh fruits and vegetables. That's one way. Farm to school lunch programs. Beginning farmer grants. Lots of stuff.

There is currently a bill moving through the Maryland state legislature that would form a Food Policy Council to try to look at these issues and coordinate and promote good food programs.

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Washington, DC: I saw Jacques Pepin do the salmon-fillet-into-salmon-steak trick on his show. Very, very clever. His daughter was on the show and was also quite impressed.

Joe Yonan: That Jacques -- of course he would be smart enough to figure this out! My source said he came up with it on his own, and I don't disbelieve him; there are only so many ideas in the world, after all.

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Cobbler Confusion: I hate to be a week late to the party, but I have a question about last week's peach and apricot cobbler recipe. I have been making cobbler for years, but I have never heard of the method where the batter is poured into the pan first with the fruit on top. I am completely intrigued. So, I have a few questions of clarification. The way I read the recipe, I pour the butter in the bottom of the pan, pour the batter over the melted butter and then spoon the fruit on top. Is that correct? Does the fruit stay on top while baking, and if so, does the dough become sufficiently brown from the pan? Like I said, I am curious and intrigued by this method. I am looking forward to trying it out this weekend! Thank you for the wonderful chat!

Bonnie Benwick: Yes, you are correct, says recipe author David Hagedorn. You heat the butter in the skillet (the recipe calls for you to do it in the oven, but I have done it on top of the stove with equal success) and pour the batter over it.

You will see that a kind of crust begins to form on the outside edge. Spoon the batter carefully on top of the batter, using a slotted spoon. The batter rises over the fruit during baking, though some fruit generally will peek through. As the cobbler bakes for an hour, it gets plenty brown, in fact deep, golden brown.

This recipe's got folks talking, that's for sure. The divine Ms. Nathalie Dupree loved it when David made it for her, and he reports with justifiable pride that Washington pastry chef Peter Brett just sent him a complimentary e-mail: "I made it for some friends yesterday and it was a hit." Snap.

Joe Yonan: BTW, Bonnie and I were also at the table when David made it for Nathalie, and we were wowed, too.

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Washington, D.C.: Cheers for your story about Dave Murphy and Food Democracy Now. Another problem with CAFOs is the horrible conditions in which the animals are kept. We'd like to give you another resource for people who are interested in sustainable agriculture (should you have room for a shameless plug). The Animal Welfare Approved program certifies family farms who raise their animals humanely and sustainably outdoors, on pasture or range. We keep a database of approved farms and the stores and restaurants that sell their products. You can also find profiles of our farmers (often with pictures) on our website--along with our standards. We have great farmers producing fabulous meat, dairy and eggs all over the nation. One of our farmers just won a First in Class for her goat cheese at the U.S. Championship of Cheese. Google us!

Jane Black: Thank you Shameless Promoter! But don't forget the link.

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Do Our Votes Count?: The beer column final four that's currently running is taking reader votes on the bracket that's posted on The Post's website; but reading what's been written by beer columnist Greg Kitsock it appears that the decision has already been made by a tasting panel. Which is it? Will the votes on the website affect the winner to be announced April 1st or will it simply be a way to see how the general audience differs (or agrees) with the "experts"?

Joe Yonan: It's the latter, indeed. We went to great pains to choose our tasting panel from more than 600 reader applicants, and we're giving greater (OK, all the) weight to their votes because we know they actually tasted the beers. But it's fun to see where things divide, isn't it?

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Washington, D.C.: Thanks for the coordinating stories on leftover wine. Although rarely a problem in our house, we've been "pumping" our leftover wine for years, and that seems to work well for quite a few days. I suppose the quality of the preservation method is a bit in the eye of the beholder--a wine connoisseur with an expensive bottle might not be pleased with the results, but for a casual drinker with leftover grocery store-type wine, it works fine.

Joe Yonan: Good point, indeed. And if you're speedy enough, it matters less!

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Richmond, Va.: With the exception of canned tuna and salmon, and dishes prepared by Mrs. Paul and Captain D's, I have most of my life shied away from fish dishes. I am only recently easing my way into it. So far I have tried flounder and tilapia and found their mild taste and texture to be pretty darn good.

I'm still a little bit chicken of the sea (heh) and wondered whether the shad mentioned in today's column would be a good bet for someone with my timidity. Ditto the also-mentioned sole, catfish or snapper.

Bonnie Benwick: Hey Richmond. Shad might be something you need to work up to; it's more oily than the fish you've been swimming with thus far, and it has a pronounced flavor. A couple of other options for you, from our Recipe Finder database: Baked Cod With Crunchy Lemon Topping, Asian Halibut Simmered in Rice Wine, Halibut With Pine Nuts and Saffron and Mustard-Roasted Fish. I could go on.

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Dupont Circle, D.C.: I find I need a few things for my kitchen. I recall reading an article about local restaurant supply stores where I could find cheap bakeware (and hopefully a pizza peel that isn't $30+). Do these still exist?

Bonnie Benwick: Best Equipment in Northeast DC sells a wooden one that would suit your purposes (regular oven) just fine; it's $12.95. Love that place. But you should be able to find several within your price range online. Check www.thefind.com and you can compare with photos.

Also, Rodman's housewares buyer Judy Newman says she could order a nice one for you that would be about $23... it'll take a few weeks (because she's headed out of town for a bit). E-mail her at jnewman@rodmans.com.

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Washington, D.C.: I loved the article about leftover wine, and I can't wait to make the syrup. Meanwhile, I have another question. I'm making a pork recipe tonight (pan roasted loin with leeks), and it calls for 1/2 cup of dry white wine. Could I sub riesling or beer (both of which I have on hand) or maybe white wine vinegar?

Jane Black: I think you'll be fine with the riesling -- it's dry-ish, right? Beer could work but i think you'd need a clean, crisp one. Nothing too dark or nutty.

Joe Yonan: Definitely don't use 1/2 cup of white wine vinegar. I agree with Jane that the Riesling's probably fine, as long as it's not too sweet.

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Rave reviews from Downtown: I made your Gastronomer's chicken recipe on Monday...and I don't know if I'll ever go back to my normal roast chicken recipe! Those potatoes were to die for.

Thanks again! Your recipes never let me down!!

Bonnie Benwick: I know. That skin, those spuds....We've heard from plenty of other readers who made it, too. Some went ahead and used big (6-pound) chickens, so their ovens got messy. To them I said: Line a large baking sheet with foil and place it under the dish with potatoes. That might help a bit.

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Richmond, Va.: I've decided that I want to start making my own bread, and have been looking for a cookbook to help me get started. I remember seeing in previous chats/articles about two books in particular, one with no-knead recipes and one with food processor recipes, and was wondering if you could help me decide which is better for me. I don't know that I'm against kneading, having never done it, but not having to do it does sound appealing. I'd mostly be baking for my husband and myself, with extra loaves going in the freezer or to friends/family. Good old-fashioned country bread (the kind you eat warm or slice thick and toast... mmm!!), ciabatta, and multigrain are the types I'm most interested in, and maybe some type of bread that lends itself well to paninis. Is there one book that can cover most of this, and be beginner-friendly? Tall order, I know!

Bonnie Benwick: Can't say enough good things about Nancy Baggett's "Kneadlessly Simple," which offers a wide range that would make you happy (Wiley, 2009).

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Chicago: I was in Arizona recently and had tortilla soup for the first time. I really liked it! I was told that the special ingredient was saffron. Does that sound right to you guys? If so, what's a good standard tortilla soup recipe and any ideas on how best to incorporate the saffron?

Also, really loved the piece on how to use the leftover wine! Joe, do you think the syrup would go well with cheesecake?

Joe Yonan: Interesting. I don't really think of saffron as a typical ingredient in tortilla soup -- it's more of a Spanish than Latin American thing -- but if you loved it, go for it. I can't imagine it not being a nice addition. I'd start with this classic recipe from Rick Bayless, but just dissolve a crumbled pinch in the stock before you add it to the pot. We also have this turkey tortilla soup recipe in the database, and you could try the same saffron addition to nice effect, I'd think.

As for the mulled wine syrup on cheesecake, I think it'd be brilliant. Literally.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm not sure if I should direct this question to you or the Going Out Gurus or someone else. I signed up for the wine and cheese tasting next week. Should I assume my reply was received, because I haven't received any confirmation back?

Bonnie Benwick: I think you're referring to the TastePost event on March 31? If so, you'll get a confirmation via e-mail on Friday.

Sounds like it'll be fun; for those of you who wish to know more, go to https://tastepost.com/tastepost/index.php?membershipBenefits#post-1649

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Fairfax, Va.: hi Free Rangers,

I'm not a wine drinker - don't really enjoy the taste of alcohol. I do like the depth of flavor it gives dishes and use it in cooking though, so Joe's article was spot on for me.

One thing I always struggle with is when recipes tell you to use a wine that "you enjoy drinking". If I'm making beef bourguignon or something to that effect, at least I know what type of wine to look for, but besides that I'm sort of at a loss.

Can you recommend brands or tell me what qualities I should be looking for when a recipe isn't more specific?

Jane Black: I think you just need a decent wine. If it's beef, something hearty and red. If it's fish, something light and crisp. (Unless it's salmon and you're using pinot noir.) Don't spend too much -- especially as you won't be drinking the rest of the bottle.

Joe Yonan: Keep in mind, though, that cooking tends to concentrate wine's flavors, which is why sources such as Anne Willan suggest that fresher, fruitier red wines are usually better bets for cooking than heavier, fuller-bodied, tannic ones. Having said that, though, I used a shiraz in the eggplant/tomato sauce, and it worked wonderfully.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I am hosting a bunch of family members for three days/nights and am trying to come up with some dinner menus. I was thinking crab cakes one night, lamb of some kind on another night, but am drawing a blank for the third night. I'd like to keep things relatively simple but seasonal. Any ideas?

Jane Black: Last week's amazing chicken in a pot?

Bonnie Benwick: So many pasta ideas...look at the bottom of our Food and Dining homepage.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Rangers, "and the young will change our eating/buying habits". Yesterday a co-worker told us a very funny story. Her daughter, 11, was told that her assignment in school was to feed the pig. They have animals at the school. She innocently asked "where is the pig food?" She was told to gather up the scraps from everyone's lunch and feed it to the pig and she did so. After much thought she told her mother that she would no longer eat pork because that would be like eating everyone's scraps that the pig had eaten. She has so far stuck to this and yesterday came home to ask "what is MSG? I heard it is not good for me and it is in a lot of foods and products." Her mother is working on that answer. We are still smiling.

Jane Black: How cool. What school does she go to? Any idea?

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Arlington, Va.: Hi, So, I've been trying to eat more Omega-3s, while not eating mercury (I'm pregnant), and I'm having trouble because the fish high in Omega-3s seem to also be high in mercury (except for wild caught salmon, which is just too expensive for me). But then, as I was eating my lunch, I noticed that the yogurt container boasted of Omega-3s. Are Omega-3s in all yogurt? What other foods contain Omega-3s that I might have been unaware of? Thanks!

Jane Black: A lot of products add nutrients to them. The question is how much do you have to eat to get the benefit? With that in mind, if you're hunting for Omega 3s, you might try eggs. Several brands have Omega-3 eggs including Organic Valley.

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Timing: So I cleaned out my pantry over the weekend and found several items I'd forgotten I had, including coconut milk and a packet of Thai peanut sauce. I also wanted to use up some almost-past-their-prime veggies, so I ended up cooking chicken in the coconut milk, adding the peanut sauce and a little PB to thicken, stirring in some sauteed onion and red bell pepper, and tossing the whole mess with some spaghetti. It turned out GREAT.

(I should note that I did NOT use the mini-tubs of PB I had in my pantry that had expired in August 2006. And I promise to clean out my pantry more often.)

Bonnie Benwick: Excellent pantry usage. Did you happen to write down the magic formula? If you served this to others, they may request a repeat performance.

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Omaha, Neb.: Hi! I've been altering a pretty standard muffin recipe and use half whole wheat and half white flour instead of all white flour. They're great but so incredibly dense and clumpy. Do you have any suggestions for lightening the texture of whole wheat muffins? (I realize that ww muffins can never match the exact texture of white flour muffins, I'm just hoping to augment them a bit.) Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: Here are some tips from ace baker Marcy Goldman (who by the way has provided a stunning Passover dessert recipe for our April 1 edition). They are almost a mini-course!

* Make sure the flour is first stirred, then measured. If you are not weighing to begin with, this stir/then measure (dip/sweep method) prevents undue extra flour (especially the whole wheat one) being measured. This simple technique helps. Without that aerating stir, it is possible that anywhere from 1 to 2-plus ounces of heavier flour are going into that batter (actually, either flour; use the same technique for both).

* Increase the liquid in the recipe (from 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup, for example). Liquid offers expandibility and those heavier flours "eat" up the liquid, anyway.

* Increase the leavening a touch (1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, OR if it's a soda-based recipe, use 1/4 teaspoon more of baking soda).

* Let the batter rest in the fridge for 30 to 45 minutes before baking. This allows the whole wheat to inhale moisture and makes a better batter overall.

* Last but not least, start with a recipe that is calibrated already by a known source ... but a reliable baking book/recipe you trust - vs. just switching the flours in an existing recipe.

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Chicken, NO?: Does anyone really know/host people who would consider a home-made chicken meal to be somehow low rent? Why are they your friends?

Joe Yonan: I know OTHER people's friends who think this. But you're right that they're not mine.

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Ballston, Va.: I have heard rumors that there is a local farm that operates similar to a CSA, delivering organic grass fed beef to locations in NOVA that you have to pick up. Could you please point me to a website for further info? I had no luck with a Google search

Jane Black: You might be referring to Polyface Farms dropoff points. They are down near Charlottesville but do dropoffs once every six weeks. You can order meat and eggs. And they deliver to Virginia and Maryland. Check it out here

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Tina in Falls Church re: maple syrup: Anyone have a clue what's happened with the price of maple syrup? I use Canadian B grade from Trader Joe's. It's usually about $6.50 for a 25 oz bottle. Been buying it for years. I ran in to get a bottle on Mon and it was $17.00! Is there a new international maple syrup cartel? The folks at TJ acknowledged the price hike had been noted by many customers but they had no explanation. Thanks.

Bonnie Benwick: Buy American! This NYT piece from a few weeks back reports that a combination of consecutive poor/short seasons in Quebec and lack of any kind of surplus have driven up syrup prices in an oil-barrel way. Legislation has been introduced to spur growth of the American industry; Canada's syrup cartel accounts for more than 70 percent of the global supply.

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Dupont Circle, D.C. RE: Pizza Peels: Thanks for the tips. Here's a bigger question: metal or wood? Someone told me that metal is thinner and therefore easier to get under the pizza to lift it out but then wood seems like the pizza would slide off better onto the stone (this is my current problem which I've only been able to solve by using way too much cornmeal). Any tips on pizza peel strategy (and getting the darn thing onto the stone in the first place)?

Bonnie Benwick: I think the key is using some semolina or cornmeal on the peel, which will act as tiny ball bearings and keep the dough moving around on the surface. The metal/wood question's a little like baseball bats. Metal may be fine for everyday/long-life usage, but wood's the natural way to go.

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Cooking with wine: I've got a pork with mustard sauce recipe that's my go-to emergency-company dish because I always have the ingredients on hand (the sauce is great with chicken, too). Last time, I didn't have white wine on hand, so I opened up a can of hard cider (Strongbow, if it matters) and used that instead. Made for a stronger flavor, but still very tasty. And no, I have NO IDEA how I was out of white wine!

Joe Yonan: Yum!

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Boston, Mass.: I generally eat only unprocessed food and recently I started questioning store bought OJ that calls itself "freshly squeezed." Do you know more about the differences between brands like Tropicana and real (for lack of a better term) freshly squeezed OJ? My friend claims that brands like Tropicana are more acidic, have more sugar, etc. But I'd appreciate your views on how such store bought brands are produced, stored, etc. and whether they are less healthy than fresh. Thank you.

Jane Black: Good question. I don't know the answer because I don't buy that kind of orange juice but you should be able to get a lot of information from the label. Look at the ingredients. Is there sugar? Are there preservatives? (The Tropicana Pure Premium that I looked up online says it has no preservatives at all.) But then, they give nutrition labels, not the ingredient list.

My bet is you're pretty safe with stuff that's not made from concentrate and advertises 100% juice. Just check to see if there's added sugar.


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Washington, D.C.: Hello Gurus!

I am so grateful to all of you -- this chat and the Food section have made me a much better cook. I am hoping your brilliant wine columnist is around today. I plan to give my boyfriend a subscription to a monthly wine club for his birthday next week. Google brings up thousands of options, but it's tough to tell which ones are good. Do you have any recommendations of particular wine clubs suitable for someone who doesn't know a ton about wine but is eager to learn? My boyfriend favors red over white wine, but I'd like to have a diversity of wineries included rather than a single-vineyard membership. Thanks so much for your help!

Bonnie Benwick: Brilliant Wine columnist Dave McIntyre sez: "Living in Maryland, I'm not allowed to join wine clubs, as the state does not allow wineries to ship directly to its residents. (There's a bill in the legislature to allow it, and it is clinging to life support; the measure has failed to even get a vote in committee the last several years.) So my personal experience is nil.

That said, there should be several clubs that offer a variety of wines. The Virginia Wine of the Month Club would be a good local option. www.vawineclub.com. For California wines, The Bounty Hunter, a terrific retail shop in Napa, offers several club options. www.bountyhunterwine.com."

Jane Black: If you live in DC and can do this, my advice would be to look at how much you want to spend and what kinds of wines you like. I know people who love the Ridge Zinfandel club and another friend who ponies up a chunk of money a month to be a member of the Nickel & Nickel club, which sends out gorgeous, juicy reds. The K&W club, from a San Francisco wine store, is pretty creative too.

Keep in mind that with the shipping, any discount you get from the winery is pretty much gone. I once considered doing this and decided instead to go once a month to a wine store and buy myself a treat.

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good recipes to freeze?: I am pregnant (not due for a few months) and already thinking about stocking the freezer with some meals for after the baby comes. I've come up with lasagna, enchiladas, and soups, but otherwise I'm having a hard time figuring out what won't come out as a ball of mush. Any thoughts on what freezes well? Oh - I don't eat red meat or tofu, but otherwise my husband and I are open to more or less anything. Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: Well, here are some ideas and of course I'm hoping chatters will weigh in:

Think about parts and accessories, mix-and-match. Freeze cooked rice in single-serving increments, so you can pull it out to make quick fried rice and stir-fry dishes. Make sauces that can be lovely additions to a quickly poached chicken breast or piece of fish or grilled vegetables. Make a few different pestos to fold into pastas for hot or cold dishes. Single portions of gumbo with rice underneath are easy to pull out and zap in the microwave. Simmer some chickpea stews or mildly spiced Indian vegetable recipes. These little tuna things were a big hit with readers and freeze well. They'd be good for lunch or light dinners.

We're not exactly heading into pot-pie season, but you can spring-ify them with seasonal vegetables, plus chicken or seafood. Individual ones topped with homemade or even store-bought (unbaked) crust would be nice to have on hand.

And finally, here's a Staff Favorites dish I like to bake and freeze. For your family, maybe use this recipe to make 2 smaller casseroles:

Chicken, Leek and Parsley Pie

6 servings

This recipe has made its mark among friends as a potluck staple. Using quick-cooking, skinless chicken tenderloins and making the pastry a day in advance nudge this recipe into a doable weeknight dish. Adapted from "The New Chicken Cookbook," edited by Linda Fraser (Smithmark, 1995):

For the pastry:

7/8 cup (14 tablespoons) slightly cold unsalted butter, diced

2 egg yolks

21/2 cups flour, plus additional for work surface

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon cold water

For the filling:

3 poached chicken breasts, bone-in, or 6 to 8 individually quick frozen boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins that have been poached

4 tablespoons butter

2 leeks (white and light green parts), thinly sliced

2 ounces grated cheddar cheese

1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard (may substitute Dijon-style)

1 teaspoon cornstarch

11/4 cups heavy cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Beaten egg, to glaze

For the pastry: In a food processor, blend together butter and egg yolks until creamy. Add the flour and salt and pulse until the mixture just comes together. With the motor running, add the water and process until the dough forms a ball. Flatten the dough. wrap in plastic, and chill for at least an hour and up to 1 day ahead. The dough patches together easily if you have any breaks.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, 1 slightly larger than the other. Roll out the larger piece on a lightly floured surface so it will line the bottom and sides of an 81/2-inch-square glass baking dish. (I prefer to use glass so you can check the progress of the pastry sides and bottom during baking.) Prick the base with a fork and bake for 15 minutes. Cool slightly.

For the filling: Debone the chicken breasts, discard the skin and pull apart the meat into large strips, doing the last step if you're using tenderloins. Set aside.

In a medium skillet over low heat, melt the butter and add the leeks, stirring occasionally, until softened. Stir in the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses and parsley just to combine. Remove from the heat.

Spread half of the leek mixture over the baked pastry. Cover with chicken, then top with the remaining leek mixture.

In a medium bowl, combine the mustard, cornstarch and cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the filling.

Moisten the top of the cooked pastry's exposed edges with beaten egg. Roll out the remaining pastry and use to cover the pie. Brush top with beaten egg and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

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20005: Hi Foodies!

So, I'm stumped (in the best sort of way). A friend just got a job at Le Creuset (!) and offered to let me take advantage of her discount! I want to pick out a few pieces for my kitchen but I'm on a budget (but seriously - at 80% off I have to take advantage of this!) and I have a TINY kitchen. What 2 or 3 pieces from LC would you recommend that any self-respecting cook have in his repertoire?

Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: Lucky duck. Seriously, 80 percent discount? Maybe I should look into a part-time gig there....If I were you, I'd get the biggest enameled, cast-iron French oven they have (13 quarts?). You'll have it for the rest of your life; forget your current kitchen size. I'd also go for the squarish grill pan and the 3-quart oval gratin dish, both also of the enameled family.

Joe Yonan: I'd get a medium Dutch oven, too -- 7 or 8 quarts.

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Arlington, Va.: I have a beautiful pork tenderloin from Smith Farms to make for dinner and I'm trying to decide how to season it. I'm thinking either a mustard or spice rub but am open to other suggestions. Sides will be roasted butternut squash and sauted kale.

Jane Black: I like the idea of a spice rub. Plays nicely with the sweet of butternut squash. Maybe something like a Jamaican Jerk? Or try this Indonesian rub from our database.

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Whole wheat flours--: Try King Arthur's White Whole Wheat flour. It's a different kind-- still whole wheat, but lighter. We make 100% whole wheat bread with it and love it. Not dense and "rustic" at all.

Bonnie Benwick: White whole wheat is a good way to go.

Joe Yonan: Before someone has a chance to type, "What is white whole wheat?" I'll answer, by copying what we've said in the chat many times: "It's made from a paler, milder-tasting variety of wheat, but it's still the whole grain. You can sub it for white flour in many baked goods. King Arthur, Bob's Red Mill, Hogson's all sell it for home use. I've seen KA and BRM versions at Whole Foods."

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While on the subject of our eating habits: One of the problem is that there's a generation of children that grew up not knowing how to cook - they knew how how to buy fast food, but their parents never cooked. An alarming number of adults don't know how to shop or how to cook at all. I remember hearing on NPR that a city (was it Baltimore?) had dedicated social workers who specifically taught low income families how to shop and cook cheaply and nutriciously to wean them off unhealthy fast food. I grew up in a household where both my parents loved to cook and it was only later I appreciated how much I learned without realizing. Chats like this and the sad-we-lost KOD fill this need too.

washingtonpost.com: FYI, Kim O'Donnel's chat will be reincarnated in a couple of weeks at Culinate.com, so keep an eye out for that. -- Elizabeth

Joe Yonan: Well said!

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Love the cooking with leftover wine story! I tend to use vermouth in cooking since I don't have to open a bottle, but if you've already got one open for drinking, splashes of white wine are great for braising chicken thighs, deglazing pans of sauteed mushrooms or carmelized onions, or plumping up dried fruit like figs or dried apricots for an ice cream topping.

And red wine syrup is fabulous over the cheesecake ice cream from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop... mmmm.

Joe Yonan: Mmmm indeed!

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Silver Spring, Md.: Your leftover-wine column today reminded me of one of my favorite desserts, made up at a dance camp one summer by our fabulous cook. (She's since moved on, to be replaced by other fabulous cooks. It's good to be well fed while dancing all day.)

Roughly: finely chopped frozen blueberries and cranberries cooked with red wine and sugar till thick and glossy (a long time). Add a splash of brandy before serving, over ice cream or anywhere you'd like a rich, fruity dessert sauce. Seems like it ought to go great in a trifle or other layered fruit/cream concoction, but it's never made it that far with me.

Joe Yonan: Yiminy.

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Baltimore, Md.: I found a good pair of lamb shanks at the grocery store the other day, 1 pound each (includes the bones). I'm wanting to use a recipe I found for roasted leg of lamb, that basically calls for a bunch of yummy herbs. Only problem is the recipe is for a large piece of lamb, like 9 pounds. Since the shanks obviously won't need to cook as long as the recipe calls for, at what setting and how long should they cook? Do I need to keep in mind anything else?

Bonnie Benwick: A lamb shank is much tougher than the meaty part of a whole leg (think of the difference between the calf and the thigh) and therefore requires braising. Brown the shanks, brown aromatic vegetables and add liquid (stock, tomatoes, etc.) to cover. Then cover the pan/pot and bake at 350 degrees, or simmer on the stove, for 2 hours or so, maybe longer, until fork-tender. Keep in mind those yummy herbs might be best applied after much of the cooking...

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Serving chicken and low rent: My friends would fall off their perches if I served chicken. I would never do such a thing. But then, I am a vegetarian.

Joe Yonan: Well, there you go.

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re: cheap bakeware: Check out outlet typey stores like TJ Maxx, Ross, Marshalls. Great prices on low- med- and high-end cookery. I spotted some Calphalon at a great price yesterday...

Joe Yonan: Do tell -- where, and for how much, and for what, exactly?

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Sterling, Va.: Basic baking question. Does whipping eggs necessarily affect the final texture of baked goods? If you're making cookies, for instance, will really frothy eggs (yolks and whites) create a different product than eggs that are just mixed thoroughly with the other ingredients?

Bonnie Benwick: Interesting to consider. Baking expert Nancy Baggett says yes, frothily beaten eggs will make a difference in flavor and texture -- especially with brownies but to some extent with cookies, too.

Flavorwise, she has tested brownie recipes side by side, using barely beaten eggs and frothy eggs. Even with the identical amount of chocolate, the chocolate flavor wasn't as pronounced. Nancy thinks that's because more air is dispersed between chocolate molecules; as they land on the palate, there's noticeably less chocolate flavor.

Texturewise, frothy eggs will yield a more cakey texture in a brownie recipe; they build steam in the batter, basically.

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Philadelphia: Please help - I've been receiving a number of angry and panicked e-mails from people about a new bill (the Food Safety Modernization Act is usually named, although there are two) that they claim is going to require everyone use pesticides on all food grown in the country and so must be stopped. I'm not sure what blogs they're picking this up from, but no one has an authoritative source and many, when asked for further information, can only offer talking points they "heard" from someone/somewhere else.

I've checked the archives but can't find anything about the bills - do you have a source I can direct people to (other than reading the actual bills because few seem to want to do that) that provides a good summary of all that's involved in the bill/bills? I've been responding to or ignoring each e-mail as appropriate, but it's getting tiring having to point out that many bills die in committee; it's not necessarily a bad thing to be able to trace who grew our food, who packaged it, who transported it; it's unclear if the bill(s) applies(apply) to all farmers and so perhaps the energy should focus on trying to clarify definitions used in it and saying what size/type of farm/farmers' market would be exempt, etc.

Thanks (and I'm sorry if this opens you up to a flood of messages about it - that's not my intention, and I understand if you decide not to answer this in order to avoid such a flood...)

Jane Black: I think you're referring to HR Bill 875. There are a lot of rumors that it would outlaw organic and even backyard gardens. Mostly nonsense and scare tactics from what I can tell. Here's the best breakdown of it from a thoroughly reliable source, Tom Philpott of Grist. There are also other links in the piece to more information.

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Sunny Rhode Island:: Also loved the roast chicken recipe! It's still cold enough for mittens up here so I hope to make it again before the spring thaw ...

My question: Banana bread recipe? Have to make two loaves for a family get-together, one with nuts and one castrado, and would like a recipe that tastes equally good both ways. Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: This sounds like a job for our Super Chatters. Recipes, anyone?

Joe Yonan: First, I must know, does the castrato bread have a tendency to break into an aria every now and then? This is my new favorite term for a nut-free food item, btw.

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the other Richmond: The main concern with Shad is, you eat the bones. Someone trying to ease into fish prob won't like that.

Joe Yonan: Thank goodness we gave other options, then, eh?

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Bread baking: For the poster who asked about bread recipes for the food processor: I find that unless I'm already using it for something else, cleaning the processor afterward is more trouble than kneading the dough by hand. Along those lines, though, a question: we're told not to mash potatoes in the processor because they become "gummy." Would that matter if I'm mashing them to make potato bread? Finally, a really great bread book (though mostly using traditional methods) is "The Book of Bread" by Judith and Evan Jones.

Joe Yonan: Does this mean you don't clean your food processor between uses, though? I suppose that bread could pick up some nice garlic flavor from the dregs of chopping, but some other things I wouldn't want to touch my dough...

Indeed, I think you could try using the processor to puree potatoes for bread. It might just make a beautifully strong dough from all that gluten development.

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Bowie, Md: The questions about whole wheat flour brings up a question I've had for a while. When a product says it contains "whole grain" shouldn't you be able to see the whole grains? Like little wheatberries in a whole wheat product? Or is it just a designation for anything where the grain is not completely ground into oblivion?

Joe Yonan: It's not about the grain being left completely whole -- ground into oblivion is just as nutritious. It's a designation that the whole grain went into the product, such as with whole wheat flour.

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Congratulations!!: On the James Beard finalist slot! When my local paper (in New England) keeps downsizing its features staff and stuffing the Food page with wire copy, it's one more reason to read you online instead. But I'd buy the print edition same-day if I could.

Bonnie Benwick: And we would love to be able to sell it to you.

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Pittsburgh: As a vegetarian, I find I can adapt some recipes calling for beef stock by substituting a combination of vegetable stock, soy sauce and red wine without the dish resulting in something weak; the soy sauce and red wine also lend a lovely deep brown color as the wine cooks down. This is especially successful for French onion soup and (mock) beef stew/Stroganoff using texturized vegetable protein (soy fake-meat strips or chunks). In lieu of chicken stock I use a mix of vegetable stock and white wine (plus, depending on the dish, a little fresh lemon juice), but no soy sauce.

Joe Yonan: Nice! We'll try to remember this for when we get a question asking just this thing, which we do from time to time...

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Leftover Wine: Okay so I know after a few days wine tastes not so great to drink. How do I know it's too bad to cook with? How old can wine be to cook with? A week or so in the refrigerator?

Joe Yonan: If it smells sour and you wouldn't drink it, for the most part, don't cook with it -- unless you're turning it into vinegar or adding it to vinaigrettes. The other exception: it can be starting to go a little sour and still make a decent syrup, because of the spices and sugar added.

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Omega-3s: My understanding is that sardines are high in omega-3s but low in mercury - they are so small and young that they don't live long enough to get mercury contamination or something like that. So maybe the pregnant chatter can give them a try. Any preparation suggestions? I've tried them and want to love them but don't quite.

Jane Black: I hear you. I love sardines but don't really cook them myself. And, though it was a quick search, there are surprisingly few tempting recipes out there. (Apparently no one cooks them often.) Here's one for roasted sardines with paprika oil and potatoes that sounds delicious.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Do you have any great recipes for cookies made in a cookie press? My mom found me an awesome cookie press just like hers, and I use it for spritz cookies, but would love to diversify and use all those different shapes and tips and things. Not just any dough will do since it has to be the right consistency to go through the plate.

Bonnie Benwick: This one sounds great, from cookie master Elinor Klivans. Below that, find her basic butter cookie recipe for the press, with variations:

Cookie-Press Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

(Makes about 100 cookies)

Dough containing chopped nuts could get caught in the disk of a cookie press, but the finely ground nuts in this recipe easily slide through the holes in the disk. You may substitute ground pecans or toasted ground almonds for the hazelnuts.

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for the surface

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup confectioners' sugar

2 tablespoons heavy (whipping) cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup (4 ounces) toasted, peeled and ground hazelnuts*

6 ounces semisweet or white chocolate, melted and cooled (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Have ready 3 baking sheets.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and cocoa. Set aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed, beat the butter, sugar, cream and vanilla until blended and smooth. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until completely incorporated. Using a wooden spoon, add the ground hazelnuts and mix until thoroughly combined. The dough should not be sticky.

Form about one-quarter of the dough into a log that fits into the cookie press cylinder. (To facilitate the shaping, you may wish to refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes prior to packing it in the cylinder or shape it on a lightly floured surface.) Pack the dough into the cookie press but do not overfill. Fit the cylinder with the disk of your choice.

Holding the cookie press upright against the baking sheet, press the dough out onto the ungreased baking sheets, moving the cookie press to space each cookie 1 inch apart. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Bake the cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies are set, 12 to 15 minutes. Do not overbake or the cookies will taste bitter. Transfer the sheets to a wire rack to cool for 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

If desired, using the tines of a fork, drizzle the melted chocolate over the tops of the cookies or dip the bottom or half of an entire cookie in the melted chocolate. Transfer to a wire rack or a sheet of wax paper to cool.

* Note: To toast the hazelnuts, spread them on a baking sheet and place them in a 350-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes; shake the pan occasionally. Watch carefully as they burn quickly.

To peel the toasted hazelnuts, immediately transfer the hot toasted hazelnuts to a clean towel and rub vigorously until almost all of the skins fall off. Set aside to cool.

To grind the toasted, peeled hazelnuts, transfer to a food processor or nut grinder and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Do not grind into a paste.

Per cookie: 40 calories, 1 gm protein, 3 gm carbohydrates, 3 gm fat, trace cholesterol, 6 gm saturated fat, 12 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber

Cookie-Press Butter Cookies

(Makes about 60 cookies)

This light, buttery dough makes melt-in-your-mouth cookies that won't last long. Though perfect as is, the dough could, on other occasions, be altered slightly (see variations that follow). I also like to drizzle melted chocolate over the baked cookies or sandwich two cookie bottoms together with melted chocolate or jam.

2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

21/4 cups all-purpose flour

Colored sugar for decorating (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have ready 2 baking sheets.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed, beat the butter, sugar and salt until blended and smooth. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and mix until blended. Gradually add the flour, mixing just until completely incorporated. The dough should be slightly sticky.

Form about one-third of the dough into a log that fits into the cookie press cylinder. (To facilitate the shaping, you may wish to refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes prior to packing it in the cylinder or shape it on a lightly floured surface.) Pack the dough into the cookie press but do not overfill. Fit the cylinder with the disk of your choice.

Holding the cookie press upright against the baking sheet, press the dough out onto the ungreased baking sheets, moving the cookie press to space each cookie 1 inch apart. Repeat with the remaining dough. If desired, sprinkle the cookies with colored sugar.

Bake the cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until the bottoms and edges are lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to a wire rack to cool for 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the wire rack to cool completely.

Per cookie: 56 calories, 1 gm protein, 6 gm carbohydrates, 3 gm fat, 16 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 10 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber



VARIATIONS

Almond: Add about 1/2 teaspoon almond extract to the dough instead of the vanilla extract.

Citrus: Add about 2 teaspoons finely grated orange or lemon zest to the dough along with the vanilla extract.

Cocoa: Use only 2 cups flour. Add 1/4 cup cocoa powder to the flour prior to mixing into the dough.

Rainbow: Add a few drops food coloring to the dough along with the vanilla extract.

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Tyson's Corner: 1. Not yet.

2. We aren't allowed to do that sort of thing at work so I've never actually been to those sorts of pages. So sad.

3. Can't see these either.

4. I've already promised my mother she could blog about my CSA adventure. This will probably be interesting. Especially when it comes to those things that I don't really like.

As a non-drinker, when it comes to buying wine for cooking, I found that it is helpful to go somewhere like Rodman's or Pearson's where they have people who can give you advice on picking a wine that will taste good and not cost too much.

Joe Yonan: 1. When?
2. *sniff*
3. (((crying out loud!)))
4. Nice. Will she email us?

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Omega 3: Try flaxseed!

Joe Yonan: Yes!

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For Ballston Meat CSA: Just a quick comment...Polyface Farm is NOT organic. They may follow organic farming techniques and ideals. They are definitely pasture-raised and grass fed and sustainable. But Joel Salatin refuses to undergo organic certification. For his meat to be labeled organic, he would have to undergo the certification process and be verified compliant with the provisions of the US Dept. of Ag National Organic Program. Polyface is many things, all of them good, but to call it organic is quite insulting to those that choose to follow the federal law, and undergo certification.

Jane Black: This is true. They are not certified organic. But as you say they do follow all the rules. Does anyone know of another organic beef drop off?

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re: Ross, TJ Maxx, etc.: The Ross in Columbia behind Wal-Mart had Calphalon saucepans and skillets for under $20. There weren't many left (though there are also a lot of different-branded anodized stuff that was similarly priced).

Joe Yonan: Nice!

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Richmond, Va. : I have several Le Creuset pots but 2 that I use all the time. With the 5 qt braiser, I make pot pies, skillet dinners, braises (of course) big cobblers, etc. The other is a 6 3/4 oval French oven. Pot roast, chicken, stew, soup, everything. Lucky to have such a generous friend with a generous discount!

Joe Yonan: My sister got a big bouillabaise pot from the LC outlet in Kittery, Maine, a few years ago, and it's her favorite. Huge -- and wicked cheap (to use Maine parlance) because the black finish is all rough instead of smooth.

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Washington, D.C.: I just asked my friend about the school and the "pig food". She said in PG County there is a program that allows the school children in 5th and 6th grades to spend a day or so a week at one of two farms in the county. They get to spend the night and participate in farm activities. The day that her daughter's school went the daughter was assigned to feed the pigs. I have no school-age children but I love the sound of this program.

Jane Black: Interesting. Thanks for finding out for us. I was surprised there was a school that was raising animals on site!

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for pork tenderloin: If you're thinking about mustard or spice rub, do both? I use a Bittman recipe that's 2T mustard and 2T curry powder and it's fantastic.

Another fun one -- sprinkle on whatever seasoning you love, like herbes de provence or sage or whatever -- and then wrap the whole thing in bacon. Brown on the stovetop and finish on a cookie sheet. (With sides.)

Jane Black: Good ideas. I love the herbs and bacon one.

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wine vs vermouth: I love Philadelphia's idea of using vermouth instead of wine 'cause it doesn't involve opening a new bottle every time you need a little for a recipe. But surely the taste is different and maybe the meansurements, too. What do you think? Half cup of wine equals half cup of vermouth?

Joe Yonan: I think if you stuck with dry vermouth, it'd be about the same -- although vermouth has a lot of other things going on, so I wouldn't just throw it into anything. And it doesn't last as long as you think; longer, sure, but you should store it in your fridge and not let it get too old. Remember Jason Wilson's first column?

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Annapolis, Md.: Regarding the Maryland law against shipping wine: I suggest Maryland residents try to support the bill "clinging to life support" instead of just bemoaning their bad luck. Freethegrapes.org is working to mobilize consumer response to change these laws, but it can't be done without support. Seriously folks, write to your local government. In a small state like Maryland, every vote counts.

Joe Yonan: Thanks much!

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Silver Spring, Md.: Re: coloring fish with red wine:

I have a 1969 Time-Life Books Foods of the World cookbook, the Spain and Portugal volume, which includes a recipe I just had to try. It's trout, marinated in red wine, olive oil, and water, with onions, mint, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns, and salt. Bake the fish in the marinade, then strain the marinade, simmer it with egg yolks to thicken, and pour over the fish to serve. A surprising color for trout (!), but really quite tasty.

Joe Yonan: Nice.

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Leftover wine that's starting to go sour...: ...makes great marinade for beef (red wine) or pork (white wine). For beef, you could use it to make sauerbraten. For pork chops, add garlic, cumin and fresh-cracked coriander seeds, soak overnight, then pan-fry.

Joe Yonan: Right -- the acidic qualities don't matter as much for a marinade, which you want to be acidic anyway. But I would say that such a marinade would definitely not be the type of thing you'd then further cook to make a sauce. Discard, baby, discard.

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she would no longer eat pork because that would be like eating everyone's scraps that the pig had eaten: Wait til she finds out they put MANURE on vegetables!

Joe Yonan: A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing, eh?

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Arlington, Va.: I recently told someone that one of the best things our parents ever did for us was cook almost everything and take us almost weekly to farmer's markets. This was in the 80s, well before it was the in thing, and we grew up in a city, but fresh grown vegetables from farmers were just part of our everyday food.

It's something I feel is important to how I will raise my own children.

Jane Black: Great story. Thanks for sharing it.

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Bonnie Benwick: More sardines ideas:
* Fry them with thinly sliced onions, white wine vinegar, pine nuts and raisins.

* Add them in layers between a potato gratin recipe.

* Grill them and top with a pureed parsley sauce.

* Add to a salad, a la this recipe:

Domatosalata Horiatiki

(Country Tomato Salad)

4 to 6 servings

"The salad tourists find in all Greek tavernas by the name horiatiki ('country or village salad', known in the United States as Greek salad), is a combination of tomatoes with various other things -- from salted sardines to olives -- of which only onion slices and feta are a must. From then on, every cook can improvise.

"Capers are my addition to horiatiki. From then on, I use whatever I can find in the house. But, of course, the tomatoes have to be of the right quality for this salad to be good."

From "The Foods of Greece," by Aglaia Kremezi (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1993):

3 large ripe tomatoes

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

1 medium onion, sliced into thin rings

1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into rings

2 salted sardines, rinsed in running water, dried with paper towels, and cut into 1/3-inch pieces

6 to 10 Kalamata olives, pitted

1 cup diced feta cheese (about 4 ounces)

1/2 cup chopped purslane (optional)

About 1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves, or to taste

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Olive oil for drizzling

1 hard-cooked egg, quartered (optional)

Cut the tomatoes in half and discard the cores. Slice the tomatoes, place in a bowl, and add the capers, onion, pepper, sardines, olives, feta and, if desired, purslane. Sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper and drizzle oil to taste over the top. Toss the salad. If desired, place the egg quarters on top. Serve immediately.

Per serving (based on 6): 112 calories, 6 gm protein, 8 gm carbohydrates, 7 gm fat, 26 mg cholesterol, 3 gm saturated fat, 485 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber


* Sardines Baked in Orange
6 servings

2 1/4 pounds fresh sardines (may substitute any firm-fleshed fish) 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, or more as needed for saute'eing 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs 3 oranges 1/2 cup raisins soaked in water 1 cup pine nuts 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Salt and pepper, to taste

Cup open each sardine, discard the head and divide into 2 fillets. Arrange in a greased casserole; reserve. Heat the oil until very hot and saute' the bread crumbs. Mix with the grated peel of 1 orange, the raisins and pine nuts.

Squeeze the juice from 1 orange and pour 3 tablespoons over the sardines. Pour over the olive oil, cover with the bread crumbs, salt and pepper and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, decorate with slices of the remaining oranges and serve.

Per serving: 663 calories, 45 gm protein, 29 gm carbohydrates, 42 gm fat, 6 gm saturated fat, 115 mg cholesterol, 238 mg sodium.

Adapted from "The Renaissance of Italian Cooking"


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Fresh food: Vegetable gardening season is just starting in the DC area. One of the handiest, not to mention cheapest, ways to get truly fresh food is to grow it yourself. If you don't have even a tiny patch of land, look into community gardens, as the sign-ups should be around now. Or find an elderly neighbor who's no longer able to garden as much as before, and offer to share part of your harvest in return for use of the land; the old-timer might be able to help some, as well as offer advice if you're a newbie. A few packets of vegetable seeds plus a few seedlings can yield $100s of food. Some of the most cost-effective crops in terms of return on space are leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, tomatoes and bell peppers.

Jane Black: There's also a program in DC that helps hook up people with garden space with those who don't but still want to garden. You can read it here.

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Le Creuset: We had access to LC at wholesale when we first married (20+ years ago). We got a rectangular baking dish, an oval gratin dish, a fish skillet (rectangular--hard to cover), and a large baking dish I use as a roaster. All are still in use, but the ones we use most are the rectangular baker and the oval gratin because they fit side by side in the oven. Oh, all are enamel/cast iron.

Bonnie Benwick: Good testimonial, especially on the rectangular front.

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Richmond, Va.: For the pregnant woman stocking up (great idea -- it kept us fed for quite a while), please consider investing in a vacuum storage system. Foods that may otherwise not take well to freezing because of ice build-up and freezer burn fare better when vacuum sealed first. A tip: freeze sauces, casseroles, soups, etc., overnight first to keep their form and then vacuum seal them. And unless a surprise is what you're up for, label everything. You will forget what's what. Good luck!

Bonnie Benwick: You're a nice chatter.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Can I just use puff pastry as a sub for other doughs? I have a box of puff pastry and a box of phyllo in the freezer I want to use, so when I see a recipe for empanadas I want to figure out if I can just put that filling in either puff or phyllo. With phyllo I'd use a couple of layers, and either way I'd brush with butter. Anything to watch out for?

Bonnie Benwick: I can think of a few things. Empanadas usually have pretty hefty/heavy fillings, so the buttery/flaky doughs might not work as well. Plus, the puff pastry dough would add a LOT of fat to the equation. It's pretty easy to have a batch of pie-type dough waiting for you in the freezer, too.

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Frederick: Good morning and congratulations to Joe on his James Beard nomination. My husband and I made gnocci together last Sunday from a recipe in a recent Saveur magazine. They were quite lovely but since neither of us have had gnocci we're not sure if ours were as light as they should be or if they were too gummy and heavy. The recipe said they were done when they floated to the top but since the water was boiling they were swimming more than floating so we took them out as soon as we saw them hit the surface. Is this correct? How would one tell if they were prepared correctly? P.S. We ate them all.

Joe Yonan: They should be pillowy and soft. If you want to experience the standard, make a reservation here. I think gnocchi are very tricky to make; they require a light hand and a good sense of how much flour is needed, or they'll turn out heavy. Indeed, the classic way to cook them is to do so until they float to the top of the water -- so maybe your water was at too vigorous of a boil if it was roiling so much you couldn't tell when they floated! If this is something you'd really like to master, I'd suggest getting a book such as Marcella Hazan's "Essentials of Italian Cooking" and looking through her primer.

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vermouth spoils but what about: vino santo? I have a bottle that friends brought from Italy. I read that it never goes bad so it hasn't been refrigerated even though it was opened maybe two or three years ago, when my friends were here.

Jane Black: If it's fortified (like Vin Santo), it should last a long time.

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Organic Meat with Local Drops: I haven't tried this place yet, but know others who have and love it. http://farmbuyersclub.com/

Jane Black: Good call.

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Food processor bread recipes: These excellent bread cookbooks give methods for food processor:

Bernard Clayton's Book of Bread (or whatever it is called, his main book), George Greenstein's Secrets of a Jewish Baker, Beatrice Ojakangas' Whole Grain breads By Hand and Machine

and there are others. Read a few of them and grasp the basic principles and you can do almost any bread recipe in the FP.

Joe Yonan: Thanks!

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Joe Yonan: Well, we've become syrupy and have reduced by about two-thirds, so you know what that means: We're done!

Thanks for the great questions, as usual, folks. Now for the giveaway books: The DC chatter who asked about white wine vinegar in the pork dish will get "The Gourmet's Guide to Cooking With Wine" by Alison Boteler. The Fairfax chatter who doesn't like to drink wine but likes to cook with it will get "Cooking With Wine" by Fiona Beckett. Send your mailing info to food@washpost.com, and we'll get you the books.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading.

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