Free Range on Food: Passover Menus, Tips for Frugal Foodies, Freezer Storage and more

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The Food Section
of the Washington Post
Wednesday, April 1, 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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Bonnie Benwick: Who is ready to go Peru, get that holiday cooking underway or queue up for the Mi Tierra market in Adams Morgan this weekend? It's that Free Range time again. Editor Joe's at home baking cookies for all of you at this very minute. No, wait, that's a big APRIL FOOLS!

Actually, he's off at a conference. We do have Tina Wasserman on hand, who's responsible for the Passover salmon recipe and can field your holiday queries. She's a Dallas cooking maven/teacher who's also a columnist for Reform Judaism magazine. (Her seders are usually for 30 people or more, can you just imagine?) And Beer columnist Greg Kitsock will be here to vet the Beer Madness No. 1 pick.

Today for chat giveaways, set your sights on Joanne Weir's "Tequila," which Spirits columnist Jason Wilson gives a big thumb's up to in his column this week. (She's got some interesting food recipes in there as well as drinks.) And "The Green Kitchen" by Richard Erlich, who writes a column of the same name for The Times of London.

We'll post winners at the end; remember as always to send an e-mail to food@washpost.com with your mailing address/contact info.

Ready, set...

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Great Falls, Va: Hello, Fellow Foodies! Love Passover, loathe 99 percent of Passover desserts. Besides flourless chocolate cake or just plain fruit, I'd appreciate some ideas for GOOD sweet things to top off my fave meal of the year.

Moccasins, I mean macaroons, are the worst.

Thanks!

Tina Wasserman: Have you tried making simple meringue cups and then filling them with fresh fruit or a fruit compote? You could add a few drops of orange blossom water to a simple syrup and add a drizzle to the fresh fruit ( berries are the best) and then have a great springtime dessert!

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Alexandria, Va.: I've noticed that Peruvian style chicken joints are popping up everywhere. The problem is 80% of these places don't even have a Peruvian in the building and taste horrible (Edy's on rt 7, they have no clue). Please be sure you get your Peruvian chicken from authetic Peruvians, not Cambodians or Hindus trying to make a buck off of what is Peruvian chicken. Pollo Rico in Arlington is the best (I'm in no way connected to them).

Jane Black: What's good doesn't necessarily require that the cooks be from the home country. (As has been reported, there are a lot of latinos making some darn good sushi, for example.)But point taken. I've had some really lousy pollo a la brasa around town. It's worth doing a little research and Pollo Rico is supposed to be good.

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Frugal Foodie: I'm 29, a graduate student (in my seventh year now) and a devoted foodie. My husband brings home the big bucks... as a musician. We adore great food, but go to good restaurants only about twice a year since it takes that long to save up for them. So, instead, we cook a lot. I have my usual haunts for inexpensive great ingredients: farmer's markets for produce; Penzeys for spices; Trader Joe's for staples, esp. oils (a recent find was unfiltered olive oil for six dollars!). Cheese on sale at igourmet can be a good deal, and I buy bulk nuts and lentils at nutsonline.com. But everyone probably knows about those places -- so I was wondering if you had any other great secret places, online or East Coast-in person, for fabulous food finds that are budget-friendly?

Bonnie Benwick: Chatters? Let's help her out.

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Vegans for Passover?: Hi guys! I'm planning on hosting a vegetarian seder this year, and I have two vegans attending, and then ten or eleven others of various dietary habits. I'm more or less confident that I can manage to make enough yummy, kosher-for-Passover veggie-friendly food for everyone else, but what on earth can I do for the vegans? Any help would be lovely--I don't want to have good friends sitting there with a only bowl of roasted beets or tempeh to eat after a long seder. Thanks so much!

Tina Wasserman: Quinoa is kosher for Passover-it's not a grain but high in protein and a great complement to roasted vegetables. Sweet potatoes also add color and flavor to your assortment of foods

I just had another thought. since you can't use eggs as a thickening or binding agent, you might consider using a little potato starch dissolved in a small amount of cold water when recipes call for 1 or 2 eggs. the sweet potatoes made me think of that since many casseroles containing them could easily be adapted. Just a thought...

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Arlington, Va.: Have you noticed the state of the economy? In today's wine column, the cheapest suggestion was $20, with most in the $25-35 range. Can you suggest a nice Viognier in the $10 range?

Bonnie Benwick: Here's what columnist Dave McIntyre says -- Not from Virginia, no. Given the economics of small production and the cost of real estate, wines of this caliber at $20 present significant value. Value, after all, does not always equate with price.

I believe if you look consistently at my columns and my recommendations, you will see that I am indeed aware of the economy and that I am always looking for high-value wines at the lower end of the price range. The world of wine, however, is more diverse than the $6.99 sale item. And I will continue to cover the entire spectrum.

There is one inexpensive Virginia wine I can suggest you look for in your local (Virginia) wine stores: Wineworks White, from Virginia Wineworks, is produced by Michael Shaps. It is predominantly Viognier, with some Vidal Blanc blended in. The 2008 may be labeled as a Viognier because it will be 75 percent of that grape, which allows them to use the one grape name.

It is meant to be a value-priced wine, to retail in the $12 to $15 range, and may be even cheaper in some places. It's a delicious, refreshing white - not as rich and complex as the ones in my article, and not perhaps a typical Viognier. But quite good!

There are also some very nice Viogniers produced in the south of France that will retail anywhere from $8 to $12. They are often quite pleasant and the better ones will offer some of the attractive floral aspects of the better Virginia examples. They will not be as rich and complex as the ones I featured today. Ask your favorite retailer to recommend one.

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Washington, D.C.: Okay, so I always look forward to reading the food section while I eat my lunch on Wednesdays. I may have to change my mind on this - this week's section made me SO hungry and quite dissatisfied with my lunch. First, the article on street food in Adams Morgan, complete with reference to a vendor with vegetarian food made me want to throw out my lunch and grab a cab over there. Then the article on Peru reinforced my mood for good street food. The passover recipes for fish, and the mock chestnut torte? Fine. Just torment me. And the articles on page 3 about the new noodle shop and the pizza place (only a few blocks from home) made me think I should just quit my job and go eat.

How am I supposed to make it through the afternoon? Will you write me a note to get out of work?

Jane Black: Not to be mean. But I personally have tasted everything in the section, minus the stuff from the Adams Morgan market. And it was amazing. I'm a big fan of matzoh praline.

Tina Wasserman: Matzo praline is addictive!

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Annapolis, Md.: Thanks for the Passover story. It's my first Passover as a newlywed, and I want to introduce my goyim husband to the seder dinner. However, I'm vegetarian. Can you offer any vegetarian Passover dinner ideas? Usually I just eat a lot of salad that week; it's very sad, indeed.

Tina Wasserman: Look for Sephardic Minas. Essentially they are layered casseroles using matzo instead of pasta strips.My website has one with vegetables and in the most recent issue of Reform Judaism Magazine I adapted a recipe from Capsouto Freres restaurant in New York for a potato mina which is a great alternative to potato kugel!

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Washington, D.C.: What do you think the best cut of steak for steak sandwiches is? Only requirement: don't have a grill, so needs to be prepared on stove top or in oven. I'd also prefer a lower-cost cut, if such a thing exists... (Flank steak is $15/lb at WF!)

Thanks!

Jane Black: For all questions of this kind, I consult the super smart butchers at Organic Butcher in McLean. Their answer: Ideally you'd use a shaved rib eye...but that's not cheap. Other options are hanger steak (cheaper than flank) or sirloin tip (which is like a hanger but wider.) For super super cheap, you could get bottom round, slice it ultra thin and pound it out to tenderize it. Organic Butcher can help you do that if you buy the cut from them.

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Alexandria, Va.: In the article "Seder with a Catch," the author mentioned a make-ahead torte. However, I was not able to access the recipe using the link. Would you please re-post the link? Thanks.

Bonnie Benwick: Here you go: Mock Chestnut Torte With Matzoh Praline.

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Melbourne, Fla.: I just read the recipe for the Mexican Braised Spare Ribs and I have a couple of questions. What other chilis could be substituted for the one mentioned? Would short ribs work just as well? Any reason this couldn't be done in a slow cooker? Just trying to make it as idiot proof as possible so my husband can make it while I'm laid up after knee surgery. Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: Hi Melbourne. Is the sun shining down there? I'm beginning to think DC's never going to have any again. Oh yes, your question...you could use dried ancho chili peppers, I guess. These moritas were HOT, even with as many seeds as I could get out. When I tested the recipe the first time I used the full amount Patricia gave me and hooboy.

If you used short ribs, the cooking time would be much longer, say, maybe 2 hours or so. And they tend to have more fat than the spare ribs. Might be a good thing to let the braised meat cool down, then refrigerate it and skim off the cooled fat on top. If you do these in a slow cooker, I'd also suggest browning the meat first.

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NoLo, D.C.: For the Great Falls reader looking for pesadik desserts, I highly recommend this Martha Stewart recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/chocolate-torte-with-passover-fudge-glaze

(be sure to follow the link in the recipe to the related recipe for the glaze! You need to make the glaze before the cake)

I've made this a number of times and will be doing so again next week. A really great cake.

Bonnie Benwick: Go Martha.

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Port Washington, N.Y.: RE: Passover. If I see one more brisket I'll scream! Are there any good lamb dishes that are kosher for Passover? Bored of Brisket

Tina Wasserman: Actually lamb can be used for Passover if it is stewed. Technically it can't be roasted so many have to forego a good leg of lamb or lamb shanks (not to mention there isn't-to my knowledge- kosher for passover mint jelly)! Look to the Maghreb, or North Africa for traditional Jewish recipes using lamb in tagines. Many from Morocco incorporate dried fruits, such as prunes which is an added benefit during Passover! Tagines are also a boon to the Passover cook because they taste better when made the day before or earlier(if you have prepared your kitchen for Passover in advance). Enjoy!

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Rockville: I just finished baking two loaves of English muffin bread. We'll eat one now, but I'd like to freeze the other for later. What's the best way to wrap bread for the freezer? Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: When they're completely cool, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then place inside a freezer-designated resealable plastic food storage bag (okay, i have that phrase on a save-string now). Get as much air out of the bag before sealing.

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Washington, D.C.: I was pleased to see that Troegs Hop Back -- one of the beers currently stocked in my fridge -- won Beer Madness! Just curious, which beers have won in previous years?

Jane Black: This was the third annual. In 2007, the winner was Brooklyn Lager. In 2008, it was Hook & Ladder's Backdraft Brown from Siver Spring.

Greg Kitsock: You can vote all over again between HopBack and Hennepin tomorrow night at the Big Hunt near Dupont Circle from 6 to 8 p.m. Reps from the two breweries are presenting "Beer Madness Face-off", and both beers, I'm told, will be avaiable on draft.

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April Food Day: Sorry to go off topic but I wanted to share that today is also April Food Day. It's a blogger based endeavor to raise awareness of the need faced by food banks. The folks behind Easy & Elegant Life and Pigtown-Design have joined forces to rouse the blogging community to spread the word.

They've set up a site for AFD at http://www.aprilfoodday.blogspot.com/ with links to Feeding America (formerly Second Harvest) as well as to participating blogs.

Happy April Food Day, Wendi

Exit 51 - http://pmf1852.wordpress.com

Bonnie Benwick: And here it is for all.

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Jane Black: For those of you who joined us last week: A correction. I said that vin santo, which is fortified, would last a long time after being opened. Whoops. According to our savvy wine man, Dave McIntyre, it lasts about a week out of the fridge. Two week maximum if chilled.

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Verona, Italy: Re the top five recipes in March: I'm guessing the chicken and pistachio fried rice won't repeat in April.

washingtonpost.com: FDA Official Says Production Error Probably Contaminated Pistachios (The Washington Post, April 1)

Bonnie Benwick: Safe bet. Not one of our readers has reported any untoward side effects, however.

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Great section: Posting early because of work, but what a great section today! The story on Peru was so interesting (even the part about the guinea pigs and their nasty little feet), and the Passover salmon recipe saved me from having to figure out what to make next week that wasn't brisket. Thanks for a great start to Wed.

Bonnie Benwick: Well, there's a bit of sunshine right there.

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Arlington, Va.: Have any of you and or the chatters been to American Seafood in Arlington? I discovered it the other day tucked behind that strip mall with Arrowine in it and was wondering if it was any good. Looks like a seafood market with some ready-made stuff as well. I am less interested in the ready-made stuff and more so in buying fresh fish. Is this a hidden gem or a gross seafood place in the middle of a parking lot? Thanks!

Jane Black: I can't help you. Chatters? Thoughts?

Jane Touzalin: I wrote a Good to Go column about it a little over a year ago. In many ways it's good for carryout, though it's not cheap. People come from miles around to get their fried grouper sandwich. The soups and seafood salads are all house-made by the husband-and-wife owners. The smoked scallop salad, calamari salad and shrimp salad (not the shrimp vinaigrette) are good, as is the lobster bisque. All the fish they sell can be turned into a fish platter with sides. Give it a try and let us know how you like it.

Bonnie Benwick: America Seafood.

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crazy for cinnamon rolls: My pregnancy craving has had me buying cinnamon rolls from Safeway, SuperFresh, Ikea, and even trying Pillsbury Grands cinnamon rolls. I would love to try to make my own. Does anyone have a favorite, tried-and-true recipe?

Jane Black: Here's a recipe we ran a few years ago. It gives you a basic bread dough that you can turn into a braided loaf or cinnamon rolls or other things. Take a look. Enjoy.

Basic Egg Bread Dough

This basic egg bread dough -- rich with butter and sweetened with honey -- is the basis for the four recipes that follow: a standard (or braided) loaf of bread, cinnamon rolls, sticky pull-apart loaf and garlic sticks.

21/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1 tablespoon honey (may substitute 2 teaspoons granulated sugar)

1 cup whole milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons salt

5 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus additional for the work surface

About 1 tablespoon vegetable oil for the bowl

In a large bowl, combine the yeast, water and honey and stir to combine. Set aside until the mixture foams, 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the milk and butter just until the butter melts. Remove from the heat; set aside to cool slightly.

Add the warm milk mixture to the yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add the eggs and salt and mix to combine.

Using a wooden spoon, add the flour to the mixture, 1 cup at a time, stirring just until the flour is almost incorporated after each addition. The dough should be slightly sticky. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough until it is smooth, elastic and no longer sticky, about 10 minutes. (To knead, first push the dough out with the heel of your hand. Then fold the dough over onto itself, turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat. If the dough sticks to your hands or the work surface, sprinkle the surface and the dough lightly with flour as necessary, using as little flour as possible.)

Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in it and then turn it to coat the dough with oil all over. Cover the bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise until double in size, about 1 hour. (May instead cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in the refrigerator, again until double in size, about 12 hours. Allow the dough to return to room temperature before proceeding.)

To make the Cinnamon Rolls (makes 18 rolls):
Nonstick spray oil

1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup raisins (optional)

1 cup (4 ounces) walnut pieces (optional)

1 recipe Basic Egg Bread Dough (see first recipe)

Flour for the work surface

1 cup confectioners' sugar mixed with 2 to 3 tablespoons heavy (whipping) cream (optional)

Coat two 9-inch round cake pans or a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with the nonstick spray oil. (Baking the rolls in two round cake pans, which are easier to invert onto a plate than is a larger rectangular baking dish.)

In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon and, if desired, raisins and walnuts. Set aside.

Prepare the Basic Egg Bread Dough (see first recipe). Using your fist, punch down the dough to deflate. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 24-by-12-inch rectangle. Sprinkle the sugar-cinnamon mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 2-inch plain border along 1 long side of the dough. Beginning with the long side of the dough that is coated with sugar, carefully but tightly roll the dough into a log. When you reach the plain edge of the dough, press it tightly against the roll so the dough sticks.

Using a serrated knife, carefully cut the dough into slices (if using a rectangular pan, cut 18 slices; if using 2 round pans, cut 14 slices). Carefully transfer the slices to the prepared pan(s), placing them about 1 inch apart. Cover the pan(s) with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and set aside in a warm place to rise until double in size, 30 to 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Uncover the pans and bake the rolls until golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 3 to 5 minutes. (Do not cool any longer than 5 minutes or the glaze on the bottom of the rolls will cool enough to make it difficult to remove them from the pan.) Place a plate or platter lined with wax paper over the top of the pan(s) and invert. It may be necessary to tap the bottom of the pan to loosen the rolls. If desired, scrape any glaze remaining in the pan over the rolls. Turn the rolls right side up, if desired, and set aside to cool slightly.

Serve warm. If desired, drizzle with the sugar-cream icing just prior to serving.

Per roll: 218 calories, 5 gm protein, 40 gm carbohydrates, 4 gm fat, 33 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 278 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

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Bread in the freezer: When I freeze homemade bread, I like to pre-slice, so I can remove just a slice at a time.

Bonnie Benwick: That's a good point.

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Arlington, Va.: A few weeks ago I was dreaming about green garlic and ramps (their appearance at the farmer's market is a sure sign that spring is here) and last weekend sure enough, I saw bunches of green garlic. I often just throw it into whatever I'm cooking, but am looking for a few recipes that feature the green garlic. So far I have a lovely green garlic and spinach soup and am thinking about a pesto, any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

and thank you for the spice rub suggestion for the pork loin last week, it was perfect.

Jane Black: You can use it anywhere you use garlic. It's just milder, which can be a bonus. Add some to a clam sauce for pasta or on top of a pizza. Or...this is one of my favorite recipes: Asparagus and morel bread pudding. Green garlic is simmered in milk to give it a flavor.

Asparagus and Morel Bread Pudding

6 generous servings
Adapted from Deborah Madison's "Local Flavors" (Broadway Books, 2002).



Ingredients

1 head green garlic, coarsely chopped (may substitute 8 to 10 cloves regular garlic)
3 cups whole or low-fat milk
1 pound loaf firm white or multigrain bread, cut into thick slices (preferably stale)
Sea salt
1 to 2 pounds peeled asparagus, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 1/3-inch pieces and soaked in cold water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot, finely diced (2 to 3 tablespoons)
1/2 to 1 pound morel or chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
3 tablespoons finely chopped tarragon or marjoram leaves
2 cups freshly grated Fontina or Gruyere cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-by-12-inch baking or gratin dish.

Combine the garlic and milk in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then remove from the heat and set aside to steep (5 to 8 minutes).

If the bread is not stale, lay it on a large baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until crisp (but not hard, or the pudding will be mushy). Break the bread into chunks and put it in a large dish. Pour the milk through a strainer over the bread (discarding the garlic) and let it sit while you prepare the vegetables, turning the bread occasionally so that it soaks up as much of the liquid as possible.

Fill a large skillet 2/3 of the way with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lightly salt the water and add the asparagus pieces; cook about 3 minutes or until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.

Melt half the butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook for 1 minute, stirring, then add the mushrooms. Increase the heat to high and cook for several minutes, stirring, until the mushrooms brown in places and exude their liquid. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Break the eggs into a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the parsley, tarragon or marjoram, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Add the soaked bread and any liquid left in the dish, the asparagus-mushroom mixture and its juices and 2/3 of the cheese, mixing well. Pour into the prepared baking or gratin dish and use a spatula to even it out. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and dot with the remaining butter. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until puffed and golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

NUTRITION | Per serving: 541 calories, 29 g protein, 47 g carbohydrates, 27 g fat, 15 g saturated fat, 213 g cholesterol, 958 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber. Recipe tested by Bonnie S. Benwick; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com.

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Frederick, Md.: What's a good beer to pair with homemade beef vegetable soup and nice crusty bread? Thanks!

Greg Kitsock: I don't think you can go wrong with a nice pale ale. There are many examples available locally, from such local and regional breweries as Dogfish Head, Old Dominion, Clipper City and Flying Dog, as well as West Coast breweries (Stone) and big brewers (Budweiser American Pale Ale).

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Hoboken, N.J.: One of my friends very generously got me a KitchenAid stand mixer for a wedding gift. It's gorgeous but I haven't used it yet. Any suggestions on recipes that would really take full advantage of it? Bonus points for something sweet that both my co-workers and fiancee would enjoy. Thank you!

Tina Wasserman: Many folks make a cookie, Rugelach,and my Kitchenaid is the reason for my rugelach's popularity. The mixing technique of the machine allows the cream cheese and butter to really combine and become light and airy. This results in a flaky, crisp, but tender, finished product. Another great feature of that machine is you can quickly turn it on and off after adding flour so that the flour gets incorporated without over working the gluten in the flour which would make your finished product tough and rubbery. Experiment and explore,; you got a great gift!

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Richmond: Where is Frugal Foodie? Some bargains are very localized. Like I go to a real salvage barn (not the chain type like Big Lots) and get veggies and fruit there for USE THAT DAY. Particularly for juicing, which can get expensive. Also, random dry goods, $4 wine, etc. I am on a big green juicing kick, make a Sunday morning power drink with spinach, ginger, apples, carrots, whatever's on sale at the veggie mart.

Bonnie Benwick: Good answer. I've found incredibly inexpensive fresh fruit and vegetables at the ethnic markets in Northeast DC, near the warehouse/DC farmers market complex.

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Vegan Passover: Either buy Veganomicon, which is worth having, or visit Post Punk Kitchen http://www.theppk.com/ or Vegetarian Times online vegetariantimes.com Both have searchable recipe databases. There are millions, literally, of vegan recipes out there. Just do a little research.

Tina Wasserman: My only caveat depends on how observant you are for Passover. Remember that soy based products are not considered useable for Passover if you are of Ashkenazic decent. It is up to you.

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Norwalk, Conn.: My mother-in-law is hosting our seder this year. I am responsible for bringing a green vegetable and typically contribute green beans sauted with onions, topped with toasted almonds. Since this same crowd ate this same dish for both Rosh Hashana and Thanksgiving, I was hoping for some inspiration. It needs to be pareve and able to be made kosher for Passover. Bonus points if it doesn't involve mushrooms and can be made in advance and heated up on the big day.

thanks!

Tina Wasserman: How about roasting asparagus in the oven for 7 minutes and then creating a mock maltaise sauce to go over it? Lightly toss your asparagus in a little extra virgin olive oil seasoned with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pop it in a 400F oven until bright green (about 7 minutes and then serve it warm or at room temperature (if she won't let you use her oven!) combine some Passover mayonnaise with a little bit of orange juice and some orange zest and it can't get much easier.

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Columbia, Md.: Hello, Rangers! I've never made a savory bread pudding but think the leftover Irish cheddar and the almost-stale ciabatta in my kitchen might be a good place to start. Would these be a good combination? And how would I go about making it? Thanks for any advice.

Bonnie Benwick: How about this way? Spicy Andouille and Cheddar Bread Pudding.

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Passover dessert: For long, involved reasons I won't go into, I can't make the Marcy Goldman cake in today's section. Any other, quick, easy ideas you can give me? I used your recipe finder, but Passover dessert choices were limited.

Tina Wasserman: Now that kosher for Passover margarine can be found, many tortes can be prepared for the holiday and they don't usually require 12 eggs! One of my signature desserts for Passover is a Linzer tart. It is delicate and light and can be made in advance and frozen! A little trick, line the bottom of your spring form pan with foil. After freezing, remove the pan and wrap the cake completely in foil. No sense keeping a pan out of commission in the freezer when you have so much to make. BTW take frozen cakes for passover and defrost on the plate you will serve it on because most cakes are too delicate to be transfered without breaking. www.cookingandmore.com

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Stafford, Va.: I am in the eternal hunt for a basic brown sauce like what most Chinese restaurants in the area serve on beef and broccoli or triple delight for instance. The bottled stir fry sauces are wretched and I've tried a lot of them. I've played with soy sauce, oyster sauce and some ginger to no avail. My homemade attempts have never been very good. Chinese cookbooks never have a brown sauce recipe -- guess our Americanized Chinese food is way different. Thanks

Bonnie Benwick: Hmm. There weren't any in the few Chinese cookbooks I've got at my desk, either. This one on the Eat Close to Home blog looks reasonable: Basic Chinese Brown Sauce.

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Wheaton, Md.: Hello,

Do you have any idea where I can find some authentic French Canadian poutine in the city?

Bonnie Benwick: While we wait for answers, maybe start with your own kitchen?

Poutine

4 side-dish servings

Poutine, a dish of french fries mixed with fresh cheese curds and topped with hot gravy, ranks high among Canada's best-loved foods. Its discovery is a matter of debate, but as one story goes, poutine was born in 1957 in rural Quebec. In one of those eureka moments, Fernand Lachance, "le pere de la poutine" ("the father of poutine"), threw the ingredients together at a friend's suggestion.

These days, poutine is on the menu at Burger King, and Saveur magazine recently named it one of its 100 favorite foods of the year.

Chef Anthony Walsh of Canoe Restaurant & Bar in Toronto, who offers the following recipe, has his own variations that always include the three basic elements of potatoes, curds and extraction of meat. One poutine features lobster and lobster bisque; another has a confit of lamb shoulder and long potato wedges; yet another features duck and bacon. He also does a breakfast poutine, including boiled eggs with big wads of cheddar and potatoes.

2 large Yukon Gold potatoes

2 medium cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme

1/3 cup olive oil

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup good-quality seasoned demi-glace (a rich sauce base; may substitute chicken gravy)

2 to 4 ounces crumbled sharp goat cheese, preferably Canadian

4 ounces warm duck confit, pulled apart (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a shallow roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet.

Scrub the potatoes well and cut into 1/4 -inch-thick batons. Toss them in a bowl with the garlic, thyme and oil; season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring the potatoes once or twice to keep them from sticking, until they are crisp and nicely browned.

While the potatoes are roasting, bring the demi-glace to a boil over medium-high heat in a small saucepan, stirring constantly. Adjust seasonings to taste. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm.

Place the cheese and the duck confit, if using, in a large bowl. Add the roasted potatoes and toss to combine. Divide among individual plates and drizzle with the warm demi-glace. Serve warm.

Per serving, with 1 tablespoon demi-glace/gravy: 152 calories, 4 g protein, 9 g carbohydrates, 11 g fat, 11 mg cholesterol, 4 g saturated fat, 227 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber

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Mexican spare ribs: What type of spare ribs are used, beef or pork? Thanks, sounds delicious

Bonnie Benwick: Pork.

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I've found incredibly inexpensive fresh fruit and vegetables at the ethnic markets: Yep. my local Asian mart has fresh basil for $1 a huge bag--one a fourth that size would be $4 at the grocery store. And probably not as fresh.

Bonnie Benwick: A definite resource for the FF.

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Washington DC: Sorry, this is more of a Tom question, but I missed his chat! If you were trying to pick up dinner tonight, where would you go? Preferably in the McPherson Square/Eastern Market/Potomac Ave. Metro areas. I'm not too familiar with the takeout options, but it's my job to bring home dinner! Any genre is fine. Thanks for your help.

Jane Black: If you're in Eastern Market, I like Tortilla Cafe. I wrote it up for our Good To Go column in the last year or so. It's at 210 7th St. SE., 202/547-570.

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Butter Question: What's the difference between "Clarifed Butter" and Melted Butter?

Tina Wasserman: Clarified butter is butter that has been slowly melted so that the fat of the butter separates from the milk solids. Removal of the milk soliods "clarifies" the look but most important, it allows the butter to be used for frying at higher temperatures without burning (remember all the brown butter in the bottom of your frying pan while cooking eggs?)

Depending on the recipe you are using, you can substitute half of the butter with olive oil and your smoking point will go up while still having the butter flavor

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Richmond: That Beef and Black-Bean Picadillo recipe was a godsend! Something new, quick, original, yet palatable for finicky family members. I'd love to sneak a few more vegetables in there; what do you think of adding a yellow bell pepper, a stalk of celery, or what other vegetable would be (relatively) authentic?

Bonnie Benwick: Whatever makes you happy.

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McLean: A few good resources for cooking supplies that I have used:

http://www.herbalcom.com/ http://www.cocoasupply.com/ http://www.thespicehouse.com/

Bonnie Benwick: More for the Frugal Foodie.

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Vegan Seder: I am vegan and once hosted a seder with 10 to 12 dishes -- all vegan. It can be a challenge, but a great resource in the Vegetarian Resource Group. I bought a vegan seder cookbook from them, but they also have some of the recipes online. http://www.vrg.org/recipes/passover.htm

Jane Black: Another resource. Thanks.

Bonnie Benwick: Thanks for the tip.

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Port Washington, NY: Tina - I looked at your website cookingandmore.com and it gave me some terrific ideas. Thank you. Do you have a cookbook I can get too? Happy Passover...I'd better get busy planning my seder!

Tina Wasserman: I'm glad my website was helpful to you! Entree to Judaism will be out in the fall but I keep adding new recipes from the book to my site so don't be a stranger! Enjoy your holiday.

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Funny Passover Story - includes brisket anecdote!: Back in 1997 I was verging on becoming an unwitting vegetarian. I was sympathetic to the vegetarian cause and had been hanging out with a friend/colleague who was vegetarian so hadn't eaten meat/fish in ages.

Mum and I went to a first night seder with her old roommate from NYC. They'd been single gals on the town and we'd often go to her seder and see her family.

Now, mum's former roommate has a lot of good qualities, but cooking isn't one of them. I took one look at the brisket, knew I couldn't do it, and announced to that table that I was a vegetarian. I haven't knowingly eaten meat since.

Bonnie Benwick: Ah, and then there's the opposite effect it can have, such as when my husband sees it on the seder table.

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Frugal Foodie again: Hi there again -- I'm in New England (RI), though I spend a few months of the year in northern Virginia too. I agree about ethnic markets being a good source for some things, but it's a mix in my experience (we have a local Indian market that has incredible deals on lentils, paneer, and spices, but their flour is incredibly old and other things appear to have low turnover, so you have to check). I was wondering more about online places; some that I just love (Zingermans), I just can't afford.

Bonnie Benwick: Further clarification from FF...

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baking casseroles: Do chatters have favorite recipes of casseroles, preferably without meat? I need to start stacking the freezer with my due date count down descending quickly. Thank you.

Tina Wasserman: Dear almost due: What , you mean you don't want to eat spaghetti with jarred sauce every day? I can't blame you! Are you a vegan or just avoiding meat? I ask because many recipes can easily be adapted for casseroles for freezing. I recently published a recipe for a Moroccan Meatball tagine that contained squash and prunes and great spices (but not too spicy if you will be nursing. You could substitute the Gimme Lean ground "beef" and I am sure the meatballs would hold up.

Here's a word of caution, when you freeze, make sure the casserole is completely cool so that ice crystals won't form and "cut" into your food altering its consistency. I like to put portions in a freezer bag. I close the bag, insert a straw in at the end and then suck out all the air closing the bag as I withdraw the straw. This prevents the food from drying out and keeps its original texture. Good luck with everything. Tina

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Pennsylvania: Do you have a fast recipe for enchiladas? I have a can of red enchilada sauce, some cooked chicken, some cheddar cheese, some tortillas. Do I just layer everything and bake? (Normally I'd make my own sauce but I don't have that much time today.) Thanks much...

Bonnie Benwick: Do you have time to saute onions and peppers, maybe with a bit of jalapeno? I'd throw that in with the cooked chicken. A Monterey jack would be preferable for melting... and maybe dip those tortillas in some of the sauce before rolling them up. It'll make them more flexible and get the sauce next to the filling.

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for grad student foodie: You didn't mention meat. Cook with cheap meat. You can make it delicious and it costs less than $2 per pound at the ethnic grocery stores. Compare the cost per pound of decent cheese. Since we live in an age of subsidies for meat, why not take advantage of the system.

Jane Black: I think I missed the beginning of this string, which I assume is about eating on a budget, but I will add one thing. Yes, meat is cheap because of subsidies. But it has a huge carbon footprint and lots of other environmental costs. So if that's a concern, you might not want to eat too much of it. Cheap isn't always as cheap as it seems. Just a thought.

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Rockville: Hi. I work long days on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I do some sort of freezer meals to ensure my husband makes me something good for dinner and not cold cereal. Monday night I put together a "tin foil" dinner with chicken, spices, red onion, red pepper, and peas that we left refrigerated until he baked them Tuesday. I wasn't excited about the flavorings on the chicken (just curry, it needed more), but am really excited about this method of cooking. Can you point me to where I can find more recipes like this? Thanks.

Bonnie Benwick: Look for "en papillote" recipes. You can use foil or parchment paper, which is good to have around the kitchen for several uses. Sometimes a little wine, some dill and a slice of lemon's all you need to poach a nice piece of fish or chicken. Or pile thin strips of carrot and leek with herbs on top of your chicken, too, even with some stock or broth.

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Washington, D.C.: It's cocktail hour at my house tonight, although I'm still trying to decide what to make. I want to do a brandy alexander, but I'd like to make something else too. I have lots of different spirits on hand, a good selection of liqueurs (including Benedictine), lemons, limes, and half n half. Any suggestions?

Jason Wilson: A brandy alexander is very nice, but perhaps a lighter, brighter option might be nice as well. You say you have Benedictine, so why not try either and Antibes or a Queen Elizabeth?

The Antibes is 1.5 oz. gin, .5 oz Benedictine, and 2 oz. fresh squeezed grapefruit juice. Shake with ice strain into an ice-filled old-fashioned glass. Add an orange or lime slice as garnish.
http://projects.washingtonpost.com/recipes/2007/05/30/antibes/

The Queen Elizabeth is even lighter. 1.5 oz. dry vermouth; .75 oz. Benedictine; .75 oz. fresh lime juice. Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass.

If you want something a little stronger, you could try the Monte Carlo I recommended in my rye column the other week.
2 oz. rye; .75 oz. Benedictine; 2 dashes Peychaud's bitters; shake with ice, and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with cherry.
http://projects.washingtonpost.com/recipes/2009/03/18/monte-carlo/

Hope that helps!

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sorta out of your venue?: What's the peanut gallery's recommendation for a modestly priced coffee maker? The inexpensive ones seem to break every year or two, but I can't pry my purse oven wide enough to pay $100 for a gourmet machine. I just need my morning joe!

Bonnie Benwick: What you need is editor Joe, who is our resident coffee expert. Check back next week, while other chatters chime in?

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Thanks for the article on Peru! I went a couple of years ago and it is such a delicious place. We have a new restaurant here in Philly called Chifa that tries to pay respect to that cuisine, but it's more inspired than faithful. If you want real aji de gallina in D.C., Las Canteras does a nice version, very autentico.

Jane Black: Is Chifa a Chinese-Peruvian restaurant?
Thanks for the local tip. Las Canteras gets lots of good reviews.

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Dupont Circle, D.C.: Next year can we do Beer Madness brackets by location? U.S., Belgium, UK, Germany, etc...

Greg Kitsock: It's interesting that you should mention this suggestion. Next year will be the Winter Olympics, and I was thinking that maybe we ought to do a Beer Olympics, opening up the contest to all countries worldwide. We'll see what American beer can do against Europe, Japan, Mexico, etc.

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Arlington, VA: Are there any easy homemade sauce recipes for fish and meats? I can't use virtually anything from a store for passover because its all not either OU P or it tastes horrendous. I'm not willing to give up on flavor for this week but some in my family are orthodox.

Tina Wasserman: An old Manischewitz recipe for wine sauce uses potato starch to thicken it. I might use 1 Tablespoon potato starch and 1 Tablespoon cake meal to 2 Tablespoons butter and 1 cup milk to create a white sauce. add some grated cheese to that and season with freshly ground black pepper and you would have a great sauce for fish and vegetables or a casserole. Remember, if you use the same proportions 2 Tablespoon pareve margarine, 1 T. potato starch and 1 T. cake meal to 1 cup CHICKEN STOCK, you will have created a veloute and left over chicken and vegetables could be added to the sauce to make a mock chicken a la king to serve with your leftover kugel. My advice to you is cook the way you normally do for the rest of the year and then you won't have to contort in the kitchen to create recipes to fit the laws of the holiday. Grilled chicken or fish is good all year long.

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Reston, Va.: Sorry this is so late, but can anyone recommend a source for tallish, metal, round bread pans? The torch has been passed for Russian Easter bread, and I'm at a loss. Last year I tried it out and baked them in round Corningware dishes, and the taste was right but the bread came out really dry. I used the same recipe we've always used, so I'm guessing the vessel's the problem.

I've tried all the big-box stores, department stores, Williams-Sonoma, etc. I've just ordered some oven-safe panettone liners out of sheer desperation because they're the right size, but I'd really rather get a couple pans. Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: Time's running short, but we'll see what folks say. Do you have any straight-sided, deep saucepans that might do? Handles would have to be oven-safe.

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Pennsylvania: My husband and I keep buying loaves of bread (French, Italian) that dry out before we can eat them up. What are some options for using them? Can I turn them into breadcrumbs in the food processor? Bread pudding? Thanks!

Jane Black: Exactly. Bread crumbs. Bread pudding. Panzanella (a Tuscan bread salad). French toast or breakfast stratas. If it's not too stale, you can use them as a base for bruschetta.

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re: enchiladas: Warm up the chicken in a little stock or water and mix in a touch of sour cream and some diced onions. Get some veggie oil warm in a cast iron pan, place the tortillas in there for a minute or so each (until soft). Than dip into your sauce, add your chicken and place seam down in your oven pan, repeat and repeat. Add your sauce over top, cheese, sliced onions cover and bake for 15-20 minutes covered @ 350.

Bonnie Benwick: Sounds like experienced enchilada advice.

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Chevy Chase, Md.: In response to Great Falls, VA who is looking for a good Passover dessert -- There is a wonderful Maida Heatter recipe for a frozen lemon mousse torte that I make and serve annually. I don't have the recipe with me, but think it might be in her Great Desserts cookbook. It can be made ahead of time and it serves an army.

Jane Black: This sounds like a great solution. Is there a crust? I looked for the book in our library for the recipe. We had Great American Desserts, Best Desserts Ever, Cakes, Pies and Tarts. No frozen lemon mousse torte in any of them.

She does have a Lemon Mousse in those books that sounds terrific. But it has lots of cream so it isn't kosher for Passover if you're serving meat.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Another dinner party coming up Sunday! I'm serving cheese fondue for a first course -- cheddar and Guinness. (It's a Guinness-themed menu.)

Suggestions for dippers, and how to maximize their dippishness? Should I cut the rye bread the day before, or even toast it a touch, so it gets a little stale? How best to cook small red new potatoes so they don't fall apart during dipping? Other than that I was thinking blanched carrots, maybe broccoli. Help me out with some ideas! What would you dip in hot beer-flavored cheese?

Jane Black: I love questions about dippishness. I think slightly toasted bread is a good idea. Rye is nice but an Irish brown bread would also be fun. Steam the potatoes but don't over cook them and they'll be fine for dipping. Other ideas might be a chunk of chicken sausage, apple, even something like a brussel sprout.

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Port Washington: One more question, Tina - I have a knish recipe my sister sent me. The 'main' ingredient for the outside is mashed potatoes with some flour added to bind it. Can this recipe substitute matzo meal or matzo cake flour for Passover or should I just wait a week?

Tina Wasserman: Yes, use matzo meal in a recipe with potatoes just realize that, as with all recipes including this meal, that you need to allow a little time for the meal to hydrate and absorb some of the moisture in the potato mixture.

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Coffee maker: Keurig! Mine makes three sizes. I usually order enough K cups to get free shipping and that lasts a while. They also have a filter you can buy to use with your own grounds.

Bonnie Benwick: Hey, you just made it under the wire.

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fresh seafood salad and drink questions/help: I love this chat and have gotten some really good ideas but now I need some help!

My husband and I just came back from the Bahamas and loved it. I'm trying to find a great recipe for Pina Coladas (and not the drink mixes, but made with real coconut milk, etc)... Also we had some excellent fresh conch salad. I've NEVER cooked with conch, don't know what it looks like, what it really is but I know it was good. I know it was a fresh salad with like a lime vinaigrette dressing and some peppers, cucumbers, red onions... Any idea how to make something like this?

Missing my pina coladas and conch salads!

Jason Wilson: The basic piña colada recipe is 2 oz. coconut milk, 2 oz. pineapple juice, and 1.5 oz. light rum, blended with lots of crushed ice. But honestly, I really haven't thought too much about piña coladas lately...but maybe this means I should for an upcoming column...

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Amish Friendship Bread: I've been given a starter of Amish Friendship Bread, and after 10 days, I need to keep one part to make into bread, and pass the other 3 parts to other friends. Since no one knows the original starter recipe, do you think I could freeze the starter until I'm ready to use it again, as I can't make bread every 10 days (having a baby in 3 weeks)?

Jane Touzalin: Yes, you can freeze it until after the baby is born and you have time to bake -- maybe in 18 years?

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Woodley Park, D.C.: I wanted to comment on your review of Pizze in the food section today. I've tried it a few times now, both slices and whole pies, and each time I've come away disappointed. The sauce doesn't have the zing that I expect to find on a pizza, and the fresh mozzarella is nearly tasteless. I'm also curious how you managed to get a pie that had a crisp crust for more than a couple of minutes after it comes out of the oven. I live just a block away and by the time I can get it home the crust is limp and soggy.

I hope they can get it together because the area desperately needs a good pizza, but right now I'm not holding my breath.

Jane Black: Hmmm. Sorry about your bad experience. I got takeout slices and whole pies and found the crust held up well. The sauce isn't tart, I agree. But on the whole I enjoyed them. And I agree. That area needs something badly.

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roasted peppers: I roasted some peppers last Sunday and want to use them in a dish this coming Sunday. Do I need to freeze them in the meantime? If it were just me I wouldn't bother, but this is for company, and the dish doesn't get heated.

Tina Wasserman: Covering roasted peppers with some oil will prevent the peppers from growing visible mold. However, I would check to make sure the peppers haven't started to ferment already. Without vinegar or oil I would be concerned that they wouldn't hold up well. Perhaps, preparing the recipe today will preserve them but without seeing the recipe, I couldn't make a definitive decisiion for you.

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Indian/ethnic markets - not just for perishables: Love the NE ethnic wholesale but also want to say ... they're not just for perishables.

Every few months I get my 10 lb bag of basmati rice and all my pulses/legumes and seasonings out at Patel brothers on Rockville Pike. Note, I do this by bus, so indulge in a samosa.

Same can be said for the Chinese grocer near Wheaton Plaza. I always stock up on seitan and tofu and different types of noodles and different spices.

Bonus - you can still stock up on veg at both these places - amazingly cheap.

Bonnie Benwick: This might not help FF in Rhode Island but it's good for us to know.

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Anonymous: RE: Easter Bread...what about a round LeCreuset Dutch oven? they come in several sizes.

Bonnie Benwick: That's true.

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Chevy Chase, Md.: Follow up to my previous submission. The recipe calls for a cookie crust and I just substitute Passover cookies. I will have to check my Passover file and can get back to you on the exact title of the recipe and the correct cookbook.

Bonnie Benwick: Do that next week?

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Bonnie Benwick: As a certain someone might say, we've been poached gently and sauced just before serving, so that means we're done! Today's winners are the conversation-starting Frugal Foodie in Rhode Island ("The Green Kitchen"), and the Dupont Circle chatter who suggested a global Beer Madness for next year ("Tequila"). Remember to send your contact info to food@washpost.com.

Thanks to Tina Wasserman and our columnists for joining us. Next week, we've got lots of Easter recipes and in two weeks, this season's updated farmers market listings. Now go eat something!

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