Free Range on Food: Staffers Solve Your Cooking Conundrums

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The Food Section
of the Washington Post
Wednesday, April 29, 2009; 1:00 PM

Free Range on Food is a forum for discussion of all things culinary. You can share your thoughts on the latest Washington Post Food section, get suggestions from fellow cooks and food lovers, or swap old-fashioned recipes the new-fashioned way. They were online Wednesday, April 29 at 1 p.m. ET.

Archive of past discussions

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Joe Yonan: Welcome, all, to Free Range, the chat that gives you insta-recipes. What'll it be today? A sandwich (without Florida tomatoes, perhaps)? A swig of bourbon, or maybe an old-fashioned?

Before we get started, I have to make an announcement to those of you who don't know about this yet: Today, our brand spanking new food blog, All We Can Eat, debuts. Head over there ASAP and let us know how you like what you read. Think of it as an opportunity to interact with us more often than once a week. Don't get us wrong, we love the quick give and take of the Free Range chat, but we'll be serving you all sorts of other stuff to chew on there day in and day out.

How could I forget the link? Here it is: All We Can Eat.

Now, back to the chat. We have Jason Wilson in the room today to help us answer questions -- specifically, in his case of course, about bourbon or anything else particularly spirited.

And we'll have giveaway books as always for our favorite posts. There's "Ratio" by Michael Ruhlman, which Bonnie reviews today; "Hungry Girl 200 Under 200" by Lisa Lillien, subject of a great Hank Stuever profile last week; and " 'wichcraft" by Tom Colicchio, subject of my Cooking for One column today.

Let's get this moving.

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Springfield, Va.: Enjoyed the sandwich article and recipes, as I am a confirmed brown-bagger and former NYer who grew up with great sandwiches. But the bread around here is lacking. I miss bread, like kaiser rolls and rye bread, with crusty outside and favorable insides. Any recommendations from the rangers on good bread shops in NoVA?

Joe Yonan: Oh, I know what you mean. This is an endlessly vexing problem. I've been disappointed with a lot of the bread in D.C. as well; nobody's come close to Mark Furstenberg's product when he was at Marvelous Market and then at Breadline. Thankfully, he's opening this new place in August, and in addition to the fab street snacks, he's planning to also sell small amounts of bread. In the meantime, I've had pretty good experience with Panorama bread, which besides selling to restaurants last year was at the Bloomingdale Farmers Market and (I think -- Robin, are you reading?) may be debuting at the 14th and U market, which starts up this Saturday. Chatters, where are your fave loaves?

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D.C.: Jane's story today was terrific. Aren't there any federal regulations regarding the wages and working conditions of those who pick tomatoes? Or because they're illegals, are they exempt? And I couldn't believe Eric Schlosser thinks this is a bad idea. The guy who saw the horrific conditions in packing houses thinks we shouldn't be boycotting those who do the same to tomato pickers? Very surprising.

washingtonpost.com: A Squeeze for Tomato Growers (The Washington Post, April 29, 2009)

Jane Black: Farm workers are actually not protected in the same way other workers are in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. So they are not guaranteed a minimum wage etc. Many of the pickers in Florida are migrant workers -- legal and illegal -- and they need the work so they don't have much bargaining power against the huge growers.

The CIW has been working hard to change that and has made great strides. It's good to see companies picking up the ball and running with it, rather than being dragged along.

As for Eric Schlosser, I think he was just skeptical that a company might come in and threaten to boycott when that could hurt workers. At the crux of the issue is: How do you effect change? Do you work incrementally? Or do you push harder and risk hurting the workers, at least in the short term. Bon Appetit wanted change faster and hopes to get it by demanding more from its suppliers.

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Singles eating: Hey, loved the article on sandwiches, especially that you'd simplified the recipes in the cookbook. Cooking for one can be a frustrating experience, and sandwiches do have great potential: you can pack in everything you need for a complete meal, they're informal and thus less depressing than more formal dinners, you can pack them for work, and they're frequently yummy. And if they don't work out, well then, who cares? It's just a sandwich.

washingtonpost.com: Stacked in Your Favor (The Washington Post, April 29, 2009)

Joe Yonan: Thanks! Hope you've been following our other Cooking for One exploits. If not, here's the collection.

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Clifton, Va.: Great article on bourbons. However, your article should have included the proper way to drink a great bourbon which is straight up with ice and branch water on the side.

And a great bourbon should never be used in cocktail or mixed with Coke because you really can't taste the difference once you mix it.

washingtonpost.com: Bourbon Steps Out of Its Overalls (The Washington Post, April 29, 2009)

Jason Wilson: There are numerous "proper" ways to drink bourbon. And in Kentucky it was amazing the range of opinions on how to do so from various distillers, bartenders, etc. Some insist that you should never dilute it with ice or water. Others says a drop of water, or one single ice cube. Others still dilute a big 100+ proof bourbon with a lot of water. Jimmy Russell, the master distiller at Wild Turkey, said he sometimes keeps his high-proof bourbon in the freezer.

As for the cocktail issue, it's an old myth that "you can't really taste the difference" between good and bad spirits in cocktails -- likely propagated by bar owners who'd like to pour you cheaper booze and charge you more for it. There's about four ingredients in most cocktails -- how could the booze not make a difference? You go ahead and make a Manhattan or Old Fashioned with something like Buffalo Trace or Evan Williams or Woodford Reserve and then try it with a $7.99 jug whiskey and let me know how that works out.

As for Coke, Jimmy Russell, the master distiller at Wild Turkey told me a story about how one fan came to tour the distillery and told him how he loved the high-end, high-proof Rare Breed bourbon with Coke. Russell thought this was odd, but said, "Hey, drink it how you like it!" Words to live by, I guess...

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Dupont Circle, D.C.: I'd have to disagree with your review of Ratio. Sure I glossed over stuff like the sausage making and thickening agents but I thought it was a really great way to explain what separates the different baking categories and to pay closer attention to the science that goes into making a cookie vs. a cake. So will I abandon recipes? No, but now when I look at one I'll know why I need X or Y and how much I can alter of either to get A or B effect. And I think Ruhlman is a pompous blowhard so this isn't some fanatic posting.

On that note, I bought quite a bit of green garlic at the market this weekend thinking they were scapes (see what kind of mistakes you get into when you don't have the right info!). I turned some into a light pesto anyway but any good ideas for the rest?

Bonnie Benwick: Well, Dupont, you and I are not in disagreement about "Ratio."

As for your pretty and mildly-flavored green garlic, use it to infuse the milk for mashed potatoes or a vegetable broth, or julienne and use in stir-fries, or mince and add it to vinaigrettes or risotto, or drizzle it with olive oil and throw it on the grill along with a steak or vegetables.

And here's a quick recipe from our deeper archives:

TOASTS WITH ROASTED GREEN GARLIC A LA PROVENCAL

4 servings

Extra-virgin olive oil

24 whole stalks green garlic, as plump as you have

4 slices French bread (as wide as stalks are long), toasted

4 large thin slices ripe tomato

4 kalamata olives

Freshly squeezed lemon juice

Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a flat baking dish with oil, lay in garlic stalks in a single layer, turning the stalks to coat with oil. Roast uncovered until white parts are soft and golden brown (leaves will be crisp), about 20 minutes.

Brush toasts lightly with oil. Lay 6 garlic stalks on each and top with a tomato slice (or pimiento). Cut olive meat off pits, slice thinly and strew over toasts. Sprinkle with lemon juice and pepper, and serve.

Per serving: 129 calories, 4 gm protein, 19 gm carbohydrates, 4 gm fat, 1 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 214 mg sodium

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Washington, D.C.: In today's Post there's an article about sandwiches ("Stacked in your Favor") which prompted me to post an online comment. I'll post it here too, in the hope that somebody can help me find a Super Special:

Up until a few years ago, the best sandwiches I have ever found in Washington were available at the now-closed Roma Italian buffet in L'Enfant Plaza Mall. I think I liked them even better than the muffulettas at Central Grocery in New Orleans. They were served on what Roma called "pizza bread," which was something like foccacia. Did you ever have a "Super Special" sandwich at Roma? Oh my... Now the question is -- are these sandwiches available anywhere still? In D.C.? Near D.C.? Anywhere at all? I NEED a Super Special.

Joe Yonan: I'm afraid Roma's predates me, though I see from a little online scouting that you're not alone in your appreciation. Chatters, does anyone have info about these Super Specials or anything else Roma-related?

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Boulder, Colo.: Question for Jason: I loved your Bourbon article today. Your distillery tour sounds like a great trip for my beau and me. Are the distilleries you visited open to the public and of those, which would you recommend?

Jason Wilson: Thanks! Yes, nearly all of the distilleries are open for some type of public tour, or . Here's a website with specifics. The distilleries are congregated in two parts of the state -- some near Bardstown and some out near Frankfort and Lexington. All of the distilleries have something interesting -- I loved the buildings and scenery around Woodford Reserve, the tasting room and visitors center at Heaven Hill, the tour at Buffalo Trace, the history at Jim Beam, etc., etc. Most of all, I would recommend starting in Louisville, and checking out the Urban Bourbon Trail of cool, historic, and/or famous bars, all of which have a huge bourbon selection.

Joe Yonan: The Travel section had an entertaining piece about a bourbon trip last year, and it included this details box with info about planning such a trip yourself.

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Richmond, Va.: What's the best bourbon for a Manhattan?

Jason Wilson: Ah, this is a very personal question. Whatever bourbon you like straight is the best bourbon for a Manhattan. Each bourbon brings different characteristics to the table.

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Washington, D.C.: Thanks for the profile of two downtown food carts. I used to work at 18th and K and loved the burrito cart, and I've been meaning to try to Korean one. Lately, I've been really enjoying the On the Fly carts with tacos and empanadas, however, the two near my office in Chinatown/Penn Quarter appear to have vanished. This makes me sad. Have you heard whether they've moved or if they're just gone?

washingtonpost.com: Lunch Carts on K Street NW (The Washington Post, April 29, 2009)

Joe Yonan: We put the question to the On the Fly guys, and here's what marketing VP Todd Cavaluzzi says:

"Please tell your reader that we totally understand and we will be bringing that location back -- probably in the fall.

During the late spring and summer months our SmartKarts are predominantly located near high-traffic tourist locations such as the National Mall American History museum, Smithsonian Castle, Hirshhorn Museum, Native American museum, National Zoo, National Arboretum, etc.

But of course we love our D.C. residents, so we are also at the Washington Nationals stadium and we will be at special event venues all over town. We also, of course, have our 3 SmartKafes in Results gyms on Capitol Hill, in the Farragut North Metro, and the City Vista building (5th & K), and we recently opened a cafe in the Corcoran Gallery of Art (no admission fee required for entry to the cafe) and we are opening a cafe in the Phillips Collection in Dupont Circle (no admission fee required for entry to the cafe) in the coming days."

They're also on Twitter (ontheflydc), and you can get more information about the Kart locations at this page on their Web site.

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Bonnie Benwick: There were several chatters last week who wanted Monica Bhide's recipe for chickpea curry. She tweaked and tested, and here it is. We're adding it to the database today as well (www.washingtonpost.com/recipes):

Mom's Chickpea Curry

4 servings

This Monica Bhide's simple recipe for channa masala, which she learned from her mother and adapted from its original pressure-cooker method.

Bhide prefers using MDH brand chana masala, which is available at Indian markets. Serve the curry with steamed rice.

MAKE AHEAD: The curry takes about 2 hours to prepare. It can be cooled and frozen for a few weeks.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 bay leaves

5 whole cloves

1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick

2 black cardamom pods, crushed

2 green cardamom pods, crushed

1 small onion, minced

1-inch piece peeled ginger root, cut crosswise into thin slices

2 tablespoons chana masala (spice blend), preferably MDH brand

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, dry-roasted then ground (see NOTE)

1/2 teaspoon garam masala (spice blend)

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon red chili powder (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/4 cups water, plus more as needed

2 15.5-ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

Heat the oil in a large and deep nonstick saucepan, until the oil begins to shimmer.

Add the bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon stick and crushed cardamom pods; once they start to sizzle, cook for 20 seconds.

Add the onion and ginger; cook, stirring, for 8 minutes, until the onions pick up color and begin to caramelize.

While the onion-ginger mixture is cooking, combine the chana masala, ground cumin seeds, garam masala, ground coriander, red chili powder, if using, and salt in a small bowl. Add about 1/4 cup of water and stir to mix well.

Add to the saucepan and stir to combine; cook for about 1 minute, then add the chickpeas and stir to combine.

Add 2 cups of water and mix to incorporate; bring to a full boil and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once or twice then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the curry begins to thickens. (Add water as needed if the curry seems too thick.)

Use a spoon to extract 5 or 6 tablespoons of the chickpeas; mash them with the back of a wooden spoon, then return them to the saucepan; they will add texture and help thicken the curry.

Remove from the heat. Cover and let sit for about 1 hour, so the chickpeas absorb the flavor of the spices.

When ready to serve, heat through over low heat. If desired, remove the bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon stick and cardamom pod casings before serving.

NOTE: To prepare the cumin seeds for this recipe, heat a dry skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds. Dry- roast for 1 or 2 minutes, stirring to prevent them from burning, until the seeds are fragrant. Let them cool, then grind to a powder in a dedicated spice grinder.

Per serving: 353 calories, 11 g protein, 50 g carbohydrates, 13 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 927 mg sodium, 10 g dietary fiber, 1 g sugar

Bonnie Benwick: and here's that link already: Mom's Chickpea Curry.

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Sterling, Va.: My mother was recently diagnosed with congestive heart failure and she has to watch her salt intake. So, in solidarity to her, I am watching my salt as well. The problem is that having a sweet tooth runs in our family. The obvious healthy dessert would be fruit, but I like to bake. Can scratch recipes for cakes, cookies, brownies, etc., be made without the salt? Will it impact the flavor or how they turn out if a 1/4 or 1/2 tsp of salt is left out?

Jane Black: A little salt goes a long way in baked goods -- bringing up the flavor. So it's worth leaving in, especially if you think about how much salt is really in each slice of cake or each cookie. (One quarter teaspoon divided by 12...) Leaving it out will flatten the taste without saving you much in sodium. So I'd look for other places to cut it out of your diet.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Hey, congrats on the new blog! Looking forward to seeing what y'all do with it.

I'm dying to know the secret of that scanwich guy. Doesn't his scanner get all gunked up with meat juice and crumbs? Those pictures are SO cool. Or does he put a piece of acetate or something else clear between the sandwich and the glass? And how does he get the background completely black?

Clearly, I have thought about this both too much and not enough.

washingtonpost.com: Sandwich Wisdom from the Earl of Scanwich (washingtonpost.com, April 29, 2009)

Joe Yonan: It's really simple. Sandwiches go right on the glass. He wipes it off between sandwiches, and uses glass cleaner when he's done. He gets the background black by turning off the lights in the (small) room, but we got the same effect by using a black box that we put over the sandwiches after we set them on the glass.

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Ridiculous book: Bonnie's story on the Ruhlman book was too kind. Not everything can be reduced to some mathematical formula, which even Ruhlman admits. Yeah, the 3:2:1 ratio might yield cookies, but they won't necessarily be the best version of those cookies. So what's the point?

Bonnie Benwick: I rise (partially) to Ruhlman's defense: The author did not say ratios could be applied to all cooking. If you had that ratio in your head and came across an untested recipe you wanted to try, you could scan it and figure quickly whether it would produce decent cookies or puddles with caramelized edges.

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Alexandria, Va.: Thanks for taking my question. I am hosting a whitewater rafting weekend for 12 in West Virginia and I need a hearty, quick dinner to feed the crowd after a long day on the river. I do have one celiac, so nothing too wheat dependent. Other than that, everything is open.

Bonnie Benwick: Boy, there are so many ways to go. For some reason, Jacques'ribs first came to mind. It's a quick and filling dish that's also inexpensive. They are served on strips of naan or flatbread, but I bet they'd be just as good served simply on top of their mushroom mixture.

Then again, you could make Sausages, Thyme and Red Onions, with mashed or roasted potatoes made in advance so they just need to be reheated.

Serve either with a big salad, and some warm chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey, foodies! A comment and a question: first, thank you for the article on the treatment of farm workers at the hands of Florida tomato growers (though, it isn't an isolated situation). Without getting too preachy, it's important for people to remember that those who pick our fruits and veggies, and process our meats for that matter, are doing incredibly back-breaking work in often appalling conditions. The fact that they are often immigrants makes them both more exploitable and less likely to get sympathy from the public at large. I wish more people would think about this when deciding who to get their food from.

Now, for the only semi-related question (about tomato growing): do any of you have any experience with using the Topsy Turvy tomato growing thing? I keep seeing infomercials about it, and it looks ingenious.

Jane Black: It definitely makes you rethink those prices at the farmers market. They don't seem quite as expensive when you think about the work that goes in.

As for Topsy Turvy tomato planter, I'm not familiar with it. From what I can tell it's a giant upside down hanging basket. Chatters? Anyone have experience?

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Lothian, Md.: Posting early as I'll be eating lunch away from my desk for a change -- a few years ago, the Food Section had an article entitled "First you take a chicken breast" (I think that was the title). There were recipes for many pan sauces for pan sauteed chicken breasts -- is it still available?

washingtonpost.com: Here you go! First, You Take a Chicken Breast (The Washington Post, Sept. 22, 1999)

Joe Yonan: Our pleasure.

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Athens, Ga.: Had lap band surgery almost 2 years ago -- lost over 140 lbs (50% of me!). But I need more soup recipes that are pretty smooth and do not have pasta in them -- and oh, been vegetarian since my marriage 23 years ago. Ideas? Tomato soup is getting boring! Thanks.

Jane Black: Here are 36 soup recipes we published recently. Some are smooth, some aren't. Most you can puree if need be.

Joe Yonan: And big congrats on the big weight loss, and sticking with it.

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New York, N.Y.: I'm having some friends over for dinner on a weeknight, and among them they have the following food requirements: no meat, no fish, no spicy food, no asparagus, no mushrooms, and no pasta. So I put it to you -- what on earth should I make for these pickiest of eaters?

Bonnie Benwick: A nice risotto.

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NoLo, D.C.: Oh, my. I'd completely forgotten about those sandwiches at L'Enfant's Roma. I worked at the DOT from 2000-2003 and used to go over there for lunch. Really spectacular.

While I don't know of anything really similar for sale, I do make focaccia pretty regularly for sandwiches at home. I use the recipe from Suzanne Dunaway's "No Need to Knead" and make sure to give it at least a night to proof in the fridge. Some roasted eggplant and red peppers, arugula, and some of Blue Ridge Dairy's applewood-smoked mozzarella (they seem to be at many of the local farmer's markets) and a mustardy balsamic vinaigrette makes for an incredible meal.

Dang. Now I want to go home and bake some focaccia for sandwiches!

Joe Yonan: Thanks!

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Hi kids, I got an aloe plant as a housewarming gift -- very exciting -- and I know they're great for sunburn, first aid, etc., but I'd really like to use it in cooking. I know that Mandu in D.C. has an aloetini drink, which I had and liked, but I haven't been able to find any recipe online. Any chance you have one? And are there any other culinary uses for aloe? I'll be adventurous. And finally, Web searches for aloe recipes all bring up aloe juice, if they bring up anything. Is aloe juice just the gel squeezed from the plant, or has it gone through additional processing steps?

Okay, thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: Interesting question, Philly.

While Spirits columnist Jason Wilson may be hunting down a drink recipe for you, from what I see on the Whole Foods Blog and Mayo Clinic Web site, commercial aloe juice is sometimes blended with other vegetable or fruit juices (it gets squeezed from the leaves); the gel is extracted from the pulp of aloe leaves, which are lined with a kind of latex. Sometimes aloe gel products have been thickened with something like carrageenan.

Looks like aloe latex has some laxative properties and may cause allergic reactions in people who are also allergic to onions and garlic...you sure that's the way you want to go, as it were?

Culinarily, naturally occurring aloe gel has a slightly bitter taste and is added to soups and sauces. If you want to try it, cut open the leaves and scrape out their gel. Add it to a soup in which the stock/broth is brought to a boil (so the gel can be boiled), then simmered.

Bonnie Benwick: Meant to ask -- chatters, who among you are drinking aloe juice and can weigh in?

Jason Wilson: I'm not sure I know any aloe juice cocktails. Though I would be careful imbibing too much raw aloe...it might not be pretty.

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Singles eating, again: I have been reading the columns, and I'm so glad you're doing them! Also, on this chat's advice, I read "Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant," a great collection of essays which leaves you feeling as though eating alone is the perfect opportunity to eat anything you want, no matter how bizarre. It's kind of funny to find out what weird foods people will eat if left on their own -- I'd love to hear what some other readers are eating. Surely I'm not the only one out there with the occasional plateful of saltines, smoked cheese, pickles, and Tofutti Cuties?

Jane Black: That book is terrific. And if you liked it, there's a new book out called "What We Eat When We Eat Alone" by Deborah Madison that should interest you. (I haven't read it yet but it looks cool.)

As for what I eat when I eat alone: Greek yogurt, honey, walnuts and whatever fruit is available. Breakfast, lunch or dinner. I don't care.

Anyone else?

Joe Yonan: For my May column, I'm planning to review Deborah's book, along with another one or two, so stay tuned!

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Ruhlman's book: Maybe it's a guy vs. girl thing. My husband was intrigued about using ingredient ratios to cook by, I thought it was really stupid and the book a waste of trees. I can understand the basic logic -- made a lot of 1-2-3-4 cakes in my life -- but that doesn't make me want to do the math every time for every dish.

washingtonpost.com: The Math In Every Bowl (The Washington Post, April 29, 2009)

Bonnie Benwick: Not sure about guy v gal. Maybe more like math-averse (speaking for myself, of course). Think of it this way: Ruhlman pulled back the curtain and has given you a way to think like a chef. Take it or leave. But his standard recipes in this book are pretty good! I wouldn't invoke tree-wasting.

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Lothian, Md.: Jason, I really enjoyed your article about the production of bourbon. It was perfect timing, since I just purchased a used Woodford reserve barrel in order to make bourbon stout. I'm not much of a bourbon drinker, but your article had me thinking of trying some of your suggestions. My brothers are bar owners (and bourbon lovers as well as bourbon stout lovers -- hence the crazy plan to brew 55 gallons of imperial stout and put it in the bourbon barrel) in Annapolis, so I'm going to talk with them about sampling some of their bourbon offerings.

Jason Wilson: I recently went to a tasting of barrel-aged beer, and that trend seems really exciting, too. I'd love to know how the stout turns out.

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re: bourbon: Hooey to those who say bourbon shouldn't be mixed with anything. I've been drinking bourbon and ginger ale for a long time (and, yes, the quality of the bourbon makes a huge difference). When I was in London lately, I started drinking bourbon mixed with ginger beer, which is a fantastic combination. I appreciate a bourbon straight up, but sometimes you just want something more refreshing.

Jason Wilson: Here here. I totally agree.

Joe Yonan: Or, as some might say, hear hear.

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help!!: My ex-boyfriend is coming over around dinner time tonight. In case he wants to stay, I want to be able to whip something out of my fridge like it was no trouble at all and have it be the best thing he's eaten ever. I need to make it seem effortless though, like I haven't been obsessing about it for the past day-and-a-half.

Since it's been warm lately, I was thinking of a salad. Do you guys have any suggestions for a great salad that will knock his socks off? I also want him crying in his beer when he remembers what a fantastic cook I am.

Jane Black: This sounds like a question for Carolyn Hax! It's definitely no longer warm so do you still want salad? You can double this recipe for roasted asparagus, mushroom and goat cheese salad. It's fabulous for spring. And you can also throw in grilled chicken or steak if you need protein. Good luck!

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Bethesda, Md.: Enjoyed the article a week or so ago on the new low-oil way to cook eggplant on a grill pan. Have you tried to make eggplant parmesan with that method and do you have a recipe?

washingtonpost.com: Eggplant, Without All the Oil. Slick. (The Washington Post, April 15, 2009)

Joe Yonan: That story package indeed included a recipe for Eggplant Parmesan.

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Sandwich Lover!: I loved the article about sandwiches today. I could eat a sandwich everyday for lunch and dinner and never get tired. (In fact before I had kids, I did do that). Now, in the daily hustle and bustle I make myself a simple turkey sandwich most days. When I was a little girl, my mom would make sandwiches with leftovers. (For example with leftover curried ground beef called Keemah). I hated it at the time because I was embarrassed at school, but as an adult I make them for myself: hearty whole wheat bread with leftover cooked ground beef (cooked with curry spices but its not soupy) and a slice of cheddar cheese. It's so yummy!

Jane Black: Isn't that funny? I used to be furious that my mom made me have peanut butter and jelly on rye bread instead of white. Now I crave it and wouldn't consider using white bread for most sandwiches.

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best loaves?: Try Wegmans. Or do what I do, and have your aunts send care packages of bread from Italian bakeries in Philadelphia! The bread and lunch meat in the D.C. area have always been sub-par. But I think we're getting better.

Joe Yonan: I know -- let's get a bunch of people together to make regular Philly bread runs!

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Charleston, SC 29401: Hello! I tried the wonderful cobbler recipe from a few weeks ago, and substituted pineapple for the fruit and brown sugar for the sugar. My goodness it was delicious.

My favorite sandwich recipe these days is sandwiching a thick slice of bread with a few slices of Compte (a favorite gruyere) and a few slices of apples, browning in a bit of butter on each side in a frying pan, weighting the sandwich down to press together. Yummy. I try to get a bit of fruit in all my sandwiches to justify the butter. When in a spartan mood, I insert the (non-buttered) bread with cheese and apple in a crazy black heatproof bag someone sent me as a present years ago and put it in my toaster. Of course it is not as good, but...

Nathalie Dupree

Joe Yonan: Yum indeed. Thanks much, Nathalie!

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I like savory: Would love to learn more about bitter herbs in alcohol. What can I start on?

Jason Wilson: The place to start is with Italian amaro. There are numerous options these days -- Campari, Ramazzotti, Averna, Montenegro, Meletti, etc. Each is very different, and when you get a taste for them, you can move up to the really bitter fernets, the one most available in the U.S. being Fernet Branca (though for a beginner this one may feel like a slap in the face with the eucalyptus bush). For a real beginner taste, a semi-sweet, semi-bitter offering is Aperol, the bright orange lower-proof cousin of Campari. Even a good vermouth or Punt e Mes, enjoyed on the rocks, would be a good place to start to learn about bitter herbs.

I love these liqueurs, and I wrote about them a while back.

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Bloomingdale: I LOVE farmer's markets and desperately want to become a locavore. Any news on when the Bloomingdale Farmer's market is up again?

Jane Black: The Bloomingdale Market opens May 17. For a full list of area farmers markets and dates, check out our interactive farmers market map.

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whole wheat dessert: I have a half bag of whole wheat flour that I would like to get through before it gets too hot to bake and the bugs get to it. Do you have any good dessert recipes that won't taste like it's been made with whole wheat flour? I am not going for healthy here. I want something people will find tasty.

Bonnie Benwick: We've got 11 dessert recipes in the database that call for whole-wheat PASTRY flour (it's ground quite fine) but I'm guessing that's not really what you have. While I consult a baking expert, might I inquire about how you've been storing that whole-wheat flour? If it's neither fridge nor freezer and you've had it a while, maybe it's not worth saving.

Bonnie Benwick: So, Nancy Baggett says you could substitute one-quarter of the flour called for in your favorite cake recipe with whole-wheat flour, but no more than that. And this sounds like smart advice: It's best to use in a chocolate or strongly flavored berry dessert (or pumpkin, but hold that thought for the fall).

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Does Ratio talk about baking powder at all? I made a gingerbread a few weeks ago that totally collapsed in the middle and the person who I got the recipe from said she thought it might be too much baking powder... but then another friend told me she's never made a gingerbread that DIDN'T collapse in the middle to some extent. Can Ruhlman save me?

Bonnie Benwick: Not sure about that. Here's his basic ratio for quick breads: 2 parts flour, 2 parts liquid, 1 part egg, 1 part butter. Does it bear any relation to the recipe you used? There are no specifics about leaveners, other than to mention their function in different recipes.

There's debate among bakers of "real gingerbread" about whether baking powder (vs. baking soda) should be used at all. Sometimes the sunken middle has to do with how the oven heats or the pan or even whether the molasses and sugars were evenly distributed through the batter. Send the recipe you're using to me at food@washpost.com and we'll go from there. I'm now fully invested in your gingerbread satisfaction!

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food blogs: Last week you asked about food blogs - I like Use Real Butter.

Jane Black: URL? Is it www.userealbutter.com?

Joe Yonan: Looks like it is.

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Microwaves: Hi Foodies,

More and more stories about microwave cooking are making it into the mainstream media. It would be fab if you folks would do some writing on these topics, e.g.: plastic in the microwave -- which plastics are safer than others? Are they all different degrees of bad? (There are frozen organic meals out there now packed in paper instead of plastics for safer nuking, so there's some level of info out there.) Also, food value in the nuking process -- which foods retain, and which lose, nutritional value when cooked this way? Etc., etc.

I think it would be fascinating to have foodies look at these issues -- what is the generally accepted science, and how does it affect our choices in the kitchen? Maybe your food science guy would like to do a guest column or six on these kinds of things? What do you think?

Bonnie Benwick: There is much to learn on this topic. We will discuss your idea, but I'm still trying to grapple with whether "foodie" is a term I can stomach.

Joe Yonan: I sort of like foodist. Or maybe foodnik.

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Alexandria, Va.: I accidentally bought a bottle of prepared harissa and have no idea what to do with it. Any great recipes come to mind? Thanks!

Joe Yonan: Since I have sandwiches on the brain, use it as a condiment; it's particularly good with lamb, so a roast leg of lamb sandwich with harissa would be fantastic. (Almost went that route in developing sandwich recipe, actually...)

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Washington, D.C.: For the picky eaters: What about a nice springy vegetable ragu (which whatever veggies they'll eat) over a bed of polenta?

Or, perhaps some mildly curried chickpeas and tomatoes with a poached egg on top, plus a nice crusty loaf of bread?

Joe Yonan: You have me with the poached egg.

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Richmond: Some people just think spatially, others don't. My brain is synthesizing the Ratio method all day. When I make a drink, I think of parts to parts, not ounces or cups. I don't think of the words to represent those measurements, but just visualize the volumes. I suspect this book will only appeal to people who think that way. More verbally-oriented people would prefer a typical recipe with words and reading. I get it. It's cool.

Bonnie Benwick: Give that fan a contract.

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Washington, D.C.: What exactly is branch water? Why is it the preferred mixer for bourbon?

Jason Wilson: Branch water is what bourbon is "cut" with before bottling -- it comes directly from the stream a distillery is built on. It's cool if you can get your hands on it. But a somewhat precious concept to say that's the preferred mixer. Okay, it's really precious, bordering on obnoxious. Saying branch water is the preferred mixer for bourbon is like saying you should only put lira in your Italian leather purse or wallet.

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Arlington, Va. S: I liked the sandwiches article (and thank you, thank you, thank you for getting "panino" right rather than using the plural "panini" for singular and "panini's" for plural as every restaurant in the area incorrectly uses).

I make my own bread at home mostly. It's pretty good and I've been experimenting with a biga to try to make rosetta rolls (Italian - Piedmont/Lombardy). Good taste so far, but the shape is not working out yet... I have "Baking with Julia" at home and other cookbooks with sections on bread baking, but none really talk about how to shape various rolls. Can you help or point to a resource? I'm hoping for sub rolls, hamburger buns, etc. Part of the problem is figuring out the size (by weight is okay) to make the dough and how long to rise for a final product in the right dimension.

When I don't make my own, I find that Best Buns makes decent bread.

Joe Yonan: We have a great recipe for you: Beranbaum's Best Buns, with Rose's forming instructions. (It's no relation to the great Best Buns bakery. I haven't had their bread, just their cupcakes, but hear great things and love the 'cakes.)

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Bread: The bread at Whole Foods' bakery is actually quite good. I like the Seedition and peasant boule.

Joe Yonan: Hmm. I've not liked the bread at WF that much, and I bought a ton of it while working on the sandwiches, but maybe you hit them on better days than I.

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Clifton, Va.: I used to tend bar sir. And win bets from folks blindfolded being able to taste the difference between Coke, ginger ale, Sprite and soda water. I won 80% of time. If you mix your cocktail with a decent spirit, not Early Times, you can't tell the difference. Sorry, bitters in your Old Fashioned makes it difficult to tell what bourbon you poured. Try it blindfolded.

And for Springfield, Wegman's Fairfax has great Kaiser rolls, other sandwich rolls and decent rye bread.

Now with untaxed Virginia corn liquor, you sip it undiluted full strength out of a mason jar while working your herding dogs.

Jason Wilson: I'm afraid of blindfolds. It brings back all those terrible memories from...well, never mind.

However, I'm pretty certain most non-vegan elementary school children could tell the difference between Coke, ginger ale, and Sprite. Maybe not 80 percent of the time, but probably at least 79 percent of the time.

Bitters introduced the right way to your cocktail will mingle with your bourbon of choice. You'll still be able to tell the difference...though this might be because I can tell the difference between Coke and Sprite 100 percent of the time. (Maybe I'm a supertaster!?)

(Btw, Early Times isn't a bourbon.)

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Silver Spring, Md.: I bought some ramps at the farmers market and now am not sure what to do with them. Are they the same as garlic greens in the above recipe? I was thinking of making a white bean salad with rosemary and adding them in. Any thoughts?

Bonnie Benwick: Here's what I sent in a Post Points tip today:

Spring's wild leeks, known as ramps, should be available at some farmers markets for a few more weeks. Because of their pronounced flavor and aroma (referred to in a 1990 Food section article as "stronger by far than a leek, more pungent than a shallot, wilder than a scallion, it relegates garlic to wimpishness and lingers on the bread, in the hair, on one's clothes...."), cooks should be advised to use them sparingly. A quarter-cup of finely chopped ramps is all one would need for a one- or two-serving omelet, for example.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: OMG 'wichcraft 'wichcraft 'wichcraft. Does it have the recipe for the goat cheese sandwich on multigrain with celery, avocado, and walnut pesto? I LIVE for that sandwich. Every time I go to NYC I have to get it at least once. I suppose I could guess at the proportions, but for the walnut pesto, in particular, it'd be nice to know their proportions.

Jane Black: Ask and you shall receive. (If you love sandwiches, seriously consider this book.)

Makes 4 sandwiches

8 tbsp fresh goat cheese

8 slices hearty multigrain bread

1 cup sliced celery (about 1/4 inch thick)

4 tbsp lemon vinaigrette

2 cups watercress, large stems removed

1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tbsp walnut pesto

Lemon Vinaigrette

Makes 2 cups (way more than you need!!)

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

2/3 cup lemon juice

2 tbsp finely chopped shallots

2 tsp kosher salt

1 sprig fresh rosemary

In a bowl, combine the oil, lemon juice, shallots and salt and whisk until the vinaigrette emulsifies. Add the rosemary sprig, cover, set aside for 1 hour. Remove rosemary. Keeps refrigerated up to a week.

Walnut Pesto

Makes 3/4 cup

2 cups walnut pieces

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Distribute the walnuts on a sheet pan and toast in the oven until they are fragrant. Transfer the walnuts to a food processor and roughly chop. Slowly add the oil and continue to process until you have a just spreadable but not too smooth pesto. Season with salt and pepper. Use immediately or store for up to a week.

Make the sandwiches:

Spread goat cheese evenly over 4 of the slices of bread. In a bowl, toss the celery and vinaigrette and place on top of the goat cheese. Add the watercress to the bowl used to dress the celery and toss with remaining vinaigrette. Top the celery with avocado, season with salt and pepper and follow with the dressed watercress. Close the sandwiches, cut in halves and serve.

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salad for the ex: Salad's good because it does seem plausible that you just happened to have the stuff already there. I like cold sliced steak over a combo of romaine and watercress, lightly dressed with plain vinaigrette (olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon) with cranberries, bleu cheese crumbles, and pecans.

Joe Yonan: I sort of think that for the ex, you order a pizza and tell him that you only cook for current boyfriends.

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Good bread!: Gold Crust Bakery in Alexandria has lovely bread, and there is good bread for sale (don't know source) at Le Fromagerie on King. (They also have fresh eggs and milk that are wonderful.)

Jane Black: I also like the bread at Butcher Block on King Street. Folks that work there tell me they bring it in par-baked and finish it three times a day. Delicious baguettes and sourdough/peasant-y loaf.

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Springfield, Va. again: Bread seeker back again. Love the hint about mailing bread. When I go back to Long Island, I get bagels, pizza, etc. to bring back here. And if friends from the island come for a visit, they know to bring a N.Y. pizza.

Now if I can find a garlic pickle and Dr. Brown Celery soda.

Joe Yonan: Nice!

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re: alternative to "foodies": How about "foorus" (or "fooroos")? As in "food gurus"?

Joe Yonan: Not easy to pronounce/understand, though, is it? Reminds me of "The Rural Juror" on "30 Rock."

Bonnie Benwick: I'm all for entertaining options. We ought to be able to get past "foodie," which sounds vaguely condescending -- as if being interested in food was not CRUCIAL TO OUR DAILY EXISTENCE. Or something.

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Boulder, Colo.: Wow, I haven't thought of Roma sandwiches in years. They truly were the best. Now I'm hungry...

Joe Yonan: Sorry.

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Alexandria: A big thank you for the couscous primavera recipe last week. We had an impromptu grilling party last week. I was able to make it ahead of time with ingredients I already had at home and it was a huge hit.

Bonnie Benwick: We will let Ms. Sedgwick, our Nourish columnist, know that.

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Re "help!": He's an ex. Why would you want to cook something he'll like? Hmmm... Carolyn would say something about mixed messages here.

washingtonpost.com: I also thought it was a fairly Haxian question - Michele

Jane Black: Totally Haxian. But who doesn't love Carolyn Hax. I say make the salad and report back.

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Washington, D.C.: A good sandwich deal can be found at Jaleo at lunch. For not too much (I can't remember what it is exactly), you get a sandwich and a smaller portion of one of about six or seven tapas.

The sandwiches are very good, though I'm still angry at them for getting rid of the tortilla sandwich option. That was delicious.

Joe Yonan: Thanks -- that is very sad about the tortilla, though. That's a fantastic sandwich.

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NoVa-Alexandria: Jane, I thought that I was the only one who craves peanut butter on rye! I like mine on toasted rye, still warm, so the peanut butter oozes out a bit.

As far as what to eat when your alone: buy an economy-sized (and more cost effective) container of couscous. It takes 5 minutes to make, and in the meantime, you can saute green, mushrooms, any bean, or reheat leftover etc., while it cooks. I go farther and top with cheese, salsa or a quick homemade marinara. It can be all your food groups in one 10-minute dish.

Jane Black: Oh yes. So good when it's oozy. I also like it with apricot, not raspberry or strawberry jam. Another mom special that I came to love.

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Hearty dinner for white water rafters: I have a family member who has celiac. One of our favorite hearty meals is pulled pork done in the Crock Pot. Take your pork should roast, put it in the crock pot and use Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce, as it is gluten free. And, instead of serving it on buns, serve it over rice. Or, ask the celiac to bring his/her own bread. Also, La Choy soy sauce is the one that is gluten free. I'm pretty sure all of the rest contain gluten.

Joe Yonan: Great idea. Leave the bread to them, and be careful about the rest. Very smart.

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3:2:1 ratio: Call me a nerd, but I LOVE that! It's how I remember what to buy to make spaghetti sauce (big can tomatoes, medium can tomato sauce, small can tomato paste). Cannot wait to dig into more.

Joe Yonan: Isn't that really big-medium-small rather than 3-2-1?

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Cocktails: This is just comment for Jason Wilson -- I've read your Spirits column for a long time and consider myself far better educated for it. Recently, I was on a vacation to Jackson, N.H. and stopped by a restaurant called the White Mountain Cider House. They had the most amazing menu of hand-crafted cocktails, using many interesting spirits that I wouldn't have recognized if not for your column, along with over a dozen varieties of bitters.

So, thanks! That extra knowledge really enhanced our enjoyment of the cocktails -- if you ever vacation up this way, I'd recommend stopping in.

Jason Wilson: Thanks for the kind words! Glad my columns could be of use! Sounds like a great place -- what did you have?

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Philly bread: It is indeed superior, so you should totally come up here for it. But I hear there's a place on Capitol Hill that gets regular deliveries from Sarcone's now? That way you can get your Philly fix without the drive.

Jane Black: Yes, it's good. See our Taylor's Gourmet review here.

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Bacourbon and Bacodka: Our bottle of home bacon-infused bourbon is almost gone, what with making all of those bacon bourbon old fashioneds (and drinking it straight up). Now I see that there is bacon vodka entering the market, but I can't imagine what you would use it for, except maybe a Bloody Mary, or pasta sauce. Thoughts?

Jason Wilson: Bacon and bourbon make a lot of sense, though I've yet to have a great one...rendering the fat is a bit tricky, isn't it? A bacon-flavored vodka? I'm sure they company will hire the best mixologists money can buy to create some bacon variation of a Cosmo. And if they do, I'll be sure to get the press release!

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Rockville, Md.: On Bloomingdale's comment about "desperately wanting to become a locavore." This made me laugh a bit, thinking about the progression of swine flu. If this turns truly pandemic and virulent and infrastructures start collapsing, we're all going to be genuine locavores. Look outside at that lovely grass. Think salad. Without getting into the politics of how one chooses to eat, we might all want to appreciate for the moment the import/export possibilities the world offers.

Jane Black: It's all about balance isn't it. I don't eat many tomatoes in the winter because they don't taste good (and now because I know about the workers' rights issues). But I do eat pineapples. Can't live without them. Or at least, I wouldn't like to have to live without them.

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Aloe: I just saw the aloe question -- I have a big plant at home and use its leaves in the summer time to calm any sunburn or bug bites -- I just slit the leaves down the middle and rub the goop on the affected spot, it works well.

I used to live in Japan where aloe drinks were very popular, though I think that they were really just apple juice-based drinks mixed with something pulpy. I've sniffed and (must confess) even experimentally licked my aloe plant goop to see if it seems edible, and I've decided, no way. For the chatter who wants that sort of drink, how about lychee fruit as a substitute? Seems to me that flavor and texture is close to the Asian-style aloe drinks.

Bonnie Benwick: "Licked my aloe plant goop" -- the phrase of the day!

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Salt: Yes, salt does go a long way in enhancing the flavor...if that's what you're used to. My mother has never been able to have much salt and therefore cooked without it. Period. As I was brought up pretty much salt-free, I cook without it. My kids are now being brought up pretty much salt free. I'm frequently told that I'm a really good cook, so my guess is that my guests don't even notice that the salt is missing from the dishes they are served. I'm sure there's a bit of an adjustment, although once he realized that I rarely eat salt (unless it's on chips or something) my husband -- who is a MUCH better cook than I am -- began leaving it out and I rarely see him salt anything. I guess what I'm saying is that once you're used to it, you probably won't notice the difference.

Jane Black: Another perspective on salt. I suppose you could get used to anything... Fair enough.

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re: whole wheat flour: I've made brownies before with half whole wheat flour. They seemed more dense than usual, but really good.

Joe Yonan: Thanks!

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weeknight dinner: To the poster who is entertaining folks with a lot of dietary demands -- when I had this dilemma, I made a taco bar. I had spicy pinto beans (vegetarian), seasoned beef, or mild chicken as choices in fillings, then an assortment of toppings: diced tomato, avocado, shredded cheese, sour cream, black beans and corn, etc. Make your own as you like it. It was quick and easy to prepare and everyone enjoyed their personal taco.

Joe Yonan: Please use good tortillas -- soft corn ones are my fave.

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ex salad: Men like "named" salads like Greek, Caesar or BLT. Find a good recipe and follow it exactly. Don't be inventive!

Jane Black: Um, guys? Is this true? I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt...

Joe Yonan: I don't know about this.

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re: topsy turvy: No experience with it, but I've seen the commercials and am also intrigued. I'm actually wondering if I could use it inside, in my southern-facing sunroom (I live in a condo). Would it be crazy to try?

Jane Black: I sent an email to our gardening expert. But he's away from his desk. Anyone else have tomato growing advice?

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Washington, D.C.: Branch water follow up. If someone orders a bourbon and branch water at a bar, what kind of water is the bartender going to pour? Will he secretly add D.C. tap water?

Jason Wilson: Hey, let's not besmirch the fine, honest bartenders of our fair city! I'm sure all the branch water is brought directly from the limestone springs of Kentucky. But if they're out, I'm sure D.C. tap water will work just fine, too.

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Silver Spring, Md.: The ratio idea is a gimmick, a nifty way to present the basic baking/cooking idea of proportions in an engineer-friendly way.

More power to Ruhlman for coming up with a gimmick to sell Yet Another Macho Cookbook. And check out the non-related Cooking for Engineers website (cookingforengineers.com).

Bonnie Benwick: Eh, it's not such a macho idea. Check out Shirley Corriher's "Bakewise." Whole lotta science, in ratio-like terms.

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Pine Plains, N.Y.: When Ruhlman says "parts" does he do this by weight or volume or a mix? I love the idea of ratios since I'm cooking for only two and this would make it easier to adjust and scale down recipes.

Bonnie Benwick: It can be either.

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Soup! Easy!: Hi, not a recipe, but more of a ratio for an easy spring/summer vegetarian soup I make: One-half head of cauliflower, four zucchini, one half yellow onion, vegetable broth, rosemary...cook cauliflower in broth until soft, saute onion and zucchini in some olive oil, add fresh chopped rosemary, then add that to the cauliflower in the brother. Simmer all together until zucchini is soft, too. Puree. Also, finely dice red pepper to garnish soup with.

This will make you give a lap-band dance.

Joe Yonan: I love the soup idea, but the last sentence is bringing such unfortunate images to my brain!

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Where to get good bread: It's Vienna, Va. A hike for me, but so worth it: Cenan's on 123/Maple Ave. Great bread, good sandwiches, good coffee. Owned by a Turkish guy named Cenan -- and he knows his stuff. Highly recommended.

Joe Yonan: Good to know!

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I miss bread: Hi foodies, a question to throw out to the chatters if there's time. I used to LOVE sandwiches and eat them two or three times a day, but last year was diagnosed with celiac. Cheated once with lox and bagel and felt awful, so awful that it almost wasn't worth it. Do any of the chatters have suggestions for gluten-free bread? I've heard that TJs and Whole Foods has it, but I have trouble imagining it could be any good at all. Thanks everyone for the help!

Bonnie Benwick: I think there are quite a few worthy gluten-free brands on the market...I remember tasting several at last year's organics trade show. Probably not as good as the kind you'd make yourself at home, though. Is that an option? I recommend the few dozen bread recipes in "The Wheat-Free Cook" by Jacqueline Mallorca (Wm Morrow).

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Sandwiches: I just landed on my feet after a layoff -- but in a far lower paying job. So, my "new job's resolution" (other than to be thankful for having one!) is to bring my lunch everyday. So far, I've been not adventurous at all -- peanut butter and jelly, egg salad, or turkey sandwiches are my stand-bys. So I'm thrilled to try the recipes from today's section. Any additional suggestions to help me branch out? Thanks!

Joe Yonan: Sure thing. I wrote on this topic awhile back: Lunch? Send that PB&J Packing.

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Bethesda, Md.: I have a stove question. We just remodeled our kitchen and installed a 6-burner range. I decided on this configuration versus 4-burner plus griddle or charbroiler for flexibility.

I have been unable to find a griddle which is large enough to complete cover two of the burners. I was thinking about locating a piece of stainless steel large enough to cover 2 or 4 of the burners to create my own griddle. Is this a good or bad idea? Is there another which would be better?

Bonnie Benwick: I suggest a trip to a restaurant supply store (try Best Equipment in NE Washington). Probably something large-format there to suit your needs.

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Alexandria, Va.: I certainly have to check out the Ratio book after reading your review. It sounds like it takes the same approach to the Beranbaum "xxx Bible" series, which I've found to be priceless in finally understanding why cooking works. I cook a lot, and always used to say something like "it's not chemistry class -- close is good enough". I've finally realized that this is so not true, and cooking (particularly baking) certainly is chemistry, in its grandest and tastiest form. Understanding why things work makes them better (and makes the chef less of a Betty Crocker drone).

Bonnie Benwick: Both authors 'splain things, but Rose gets extremely specific. God bless her.

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Sandwich Girl: I loved the sandwich article! One thing I try to do is use the innate portion-control dimension of sandwiches to keep my diet fairly healthy: a small amount of pate with a huge pile of greens and a nice jam on some multi-grain is so much better for me than the slab I used to eat. Equally, I like putting in ingredients like chocolate (a ganache made with a very bitter bar pairs gorgeously with pears and blue cheese on a soft white bread) to keep things interesting, but also to keep introducing small amounts of the decadent into a balanced eating life.

Joe Yonan: Nice -- I love that ganache/pear/blue cheese idea. Gorgeous. I've been recently fantasizing about a panino with refried beans, mozzarella and salsa.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: I have leftover pork tenderloin and leftover beef tri-tip from roasting earlier in the week and had been looking forward to sandwiches, but unfortunately I've got too many other things going on and won't be able to get to them within three days of the initial cooking, which is my usual guideline for food safety. Should I slice and freeze, or just freeze in big chunks and slice after thawing? And when I do get around to enjoying them in sandwiches, any suggestions? I'm thinking bleu cheese and horseradish on the beef, but can't think of any great ideas for the pork... something more than mustard.

Bonnie Benwick: Slice and freeze, yes.

Joe Yonan: And for the pork, pickled onions are a natural, and/or a quick coleslaw. Or, taking a cue from the Cubano Italiano today, Peppadews.

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Arlington, Va.: Springfield, Wegman's in Fairfax carries all flavors of Dr. Brown's.

Joe Yonan: Love Dr. Brown's. Love Wegman's. Don't love (trekking to) Fairfax.

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Alexandria, Va. -- NoVa Breads: Atwater sells at the Courthouse Market on Saturdays, and I believe that The Bread Ovens at Quail Creek have joined also. Quail's Pulgiese is especially wonderful!

Bonapart Bakery sells at the Del Ray market on Saturdays.

Here's my favorite; Restaurant Eve's breads are sold at Grape + Bean in Old Town. The ciabatta is my favorite, and is also the same bread offered during Eve's Lickety Split lunch in the bar/lounge.

Speaking of sandwiches, where do you recommend getting a good Reuben in NoVa? Thanks for the chat!

Joe Yonan: Thanks for weighing in. Now, that Reuben question. Hmm... No time to think or research ... chatters? Help!

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I type mandolin, you type mandoline: Google search brought up both spellings by the way.

Thanks for responding to my question last week, but I should have been more specific about what's going on. The mandoline is your basic plastic model (OXO brand). When I said that one side of the slice is thicker than the other, what I meant to say is that the part of the food that first hits the blade is always thicker than the part that last leaves the blade. I start with a potato at a 90 degree angle and it ends up being at a 45 degree angle after a bunch of slices. Am I applying too much pressure maybe?

Thanks for the sandwich ideas today. With me not working and my husband working from home, it's getting harder to come up with interesting lunch ideas as well as dinner (I'm not a fan of leftovers btw). I will be checking those out!

Joe Yonan: Ah, I see what you mean now. OK, I went straight to the source: the fantastic Gretchen Holt, marketing maven at OXO. Here's what she says:

"I've seen this problem with the mandoline and have experienced it until I received a lesson from a professional (Jacques Pepin) who showed me it was user technique. (He can make our mandoline sing like a Stradivarius. I felt like a bumbling idiot around him.) What can happen is that people unknowingly change the speed they're pushing a food through the blade, which can cause uneven slices. For example, if you start out fast and then go slower because of resistance on the blade, the result is uneven slices. Now, with that said, we're not infallible ... it's the reason we have a satisfaction guarantee. We'd be happy to send the reader a new mandoline in exchange for the one he/she has to check it out here and make sure all is good."

If you want to contact her, she's at gholt@oxo.com.

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I recommend the few dozen bread recipes in "The Wheat-Free Cook": Wow, I had no idea. thank you so much! I'm definitely going to try at home -- just wasn't excited to commit to the effort without thinking there's a small chance of it turning out okay.

Bonnie Benwick: You're welcome. If you're in the area, stop in at the Bethesda Hyatt this Friday night for the Gluten-Free Spree (starts at 6:30). I'm part of some cooking team competition, but we're not making bread!

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Joe Yonan: Well, you've cut us into halves or quarters, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great questions. Hope we gave you some helpful answers. Don't forget to check out our new blog, All We Can Eat, and we'll see you there and/or next time here.

But before I close off, the book winners: The first Springfield chatter who started off the where-can-I-get-good-bread thread will get " 'wichcraft." The Richmond chatter who thinks ratios all the time will get, of course, "Ratio." And I'm afraid to say that I don't really see anybody in the chat room that I think is a good fit for "Hungry Girl 200 Under 200." But if you want to claim it, the first person who emails us at food@washpost.com wanting it will get it!

The other winners, please send your mailing info to that email address, too, and we'll get you your books.

Thanks, all -- and until next time happy cooking, eating, drinking and reading.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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