Free Range on Food: Staffers Solve Your Cooking Conundrums

The Food Section
of the Washington Post
Wednesday, June 10, 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. The Food section staff goes Free Range on Food every Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET.

A transcript follows.

Archive of past discussions


Bonnie Benwick: A cheesy good afternoon to all. Have you had a wonderful lunch? Not me. But I remain cheerful due to the company we've got in house today: Domenica Marchetti, author of today's Cheeses for Summer article, plus Nourish columnist Stephanie Witt Sedgwick and tiki master/Spirits columnist Jason Wilson (intermittently, via Stockholm), all ready to answer your fervent questions.

Early chatters' comments seem a little peevish; maybe it's weather? At least it's not raining now. In give-away mode, we have "A Good Catch" by Jill Lambert, the source of today's Dinner in Minutes tuna recipe, and, in a bit of counter-programming, "Zero-Proof Cocktails: Alcohol-Free Beverages for Every Occasion" by Liz Scott. Winners will be posted at the end of the chat; remember to send your contact info (name, address) to


Fresh Fruits and Veggies?: What should I be eating now? What's in season and shouldn't be missed? What can I throw in my lunch and eat easily? Thanks, you guys are wonderful!

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Strawberries, strawberries, strawberries, and hurry. When the local berries disappear you'll be sorry. Also, look for spring onions, salad greens, and fresh herbs. Oh one more thing, try a few strawberries with the salad greens. The berries like balsamic-based vinaigrettes and make a nice contrast in a mixed green salad.

Bonnie Benwick: Cukes are in full force, too.


Dark and Stormy: Just a comment for Jason Wilson -- he had mentioned a couple of weeks ago how the Dark and Stormy was a favorite cocktail, and some conversation followed about the types of ginger beer best suited for the job.

This may sound a bit strange, but Goya Ginger Beer is the absolute best I've had in that drink. It uses ginger oil & provides much more of the ginger bite than does traditional ginger beer, even the fancy-schmancy organic kinds.

Since using the Goya, all other versions have made the Stormy part of the equation taste like a light drizzle with mildly overcast skies.

Jason Wilson: Thanks for the follow-up. I haven't tried Goya brand, but will now. I wonder what sort of rum you used?


U Street: Hi foodists, just wanted to write in to thank you for the quick dinner recipe tonight. Tuna and avocado are two of my favorite foods, and I love eating both of them with mango. Obviously I'm going to pick up the ingredients on my way home tonight and try out this recipe. It looks heavenly!

Bonnie Benwick: I really liked it, and it's beautiful on the plate. I wish that photo could have run bigger in print....


Bethesda, Md.: Re tiki drinks, a bartender at Trader Vic's, Kwok Cheung, now owns and cooks terrific food (crispy soft shell crabs, e.g.) at Shanghai Village on Bethesda Ave. in Bethesda.

If you ask and the place is not really busy, he will come out of the kitchen and make old favorites (for me, it's Gun Club Punch).

"Lest we forget."

Jason Wilson: Lest we forget, indeed...thanks for the tip!


Cheese Please!: I was interviewing with a law firm for a summer associate position. For some reason I can't now remember, I told my interviewer I secretly want to be a cheesemonger. He hates (hates!) cheese and we ended up in a spirited argument about the subject. I left thinking the interview was fun, but a total bust.

I found out later that my interest in cheese was the main thing he passed along to his hiring co-chair. She is a die hard cheese fan. It worked.

Thanks for your cheese review! Happy cheesing!

Bonnie Benwick: I can see why you'd be favorably disposed. You're welcome.


Near Chicago: A compliment, a complaint...

This week, I finally made the Smith Island cupcakes and Smith Island cake from last April. Both are excellent (albeit a lot of work!), and I thank you for them. I made the simple syrup for the cupcakes with about a tablespoon of Grand Marnier, and that really made a nice flavor boost.

My complaint (such as it is) comes from the recipe for the cake. I know it came from a cookbook, but in the testing process, you must have determined the equivalent of "3 serving spoons" of batter, and I do wish you had shared it! I eventually worked out that it's about 2/3 cup, but I wound up with one very thin (and unusable) layer because my serving spoon apparently is smaller than the recipe writer's.

That said, I appreciate the work you do week after week! Thanks for listening...

Bonnie Benwick: That's a good thing to know; wish we'd included it to begin with. We'll add a note to the recipe in the database online. You've earned an honorary tester badge.


Silver Spring, Md.: Hi -- so for the past two weeks, we've received an enormous head of napa cabbage in our CSA box. We have no idea what to do with it -- any thoughts? The only think I can think of is Chinese Chicken Salad. Thanks!

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: What can't you do with? Braise slowly with onions and sliced apples. Add, cut into wedges or chunks to a stew, Shred for cole slaw. Slice, sauté and season as a filling for tarts, pastries. Or just slice and sauté quickly with some orange zest, orange juice and diced sweet onions.


Spirits: Yet again Jason's column is a perfect combination of whimsy touched with all the seriousness refined drinking deserves. Tiki indeed. We overlapped in Boston, and perhaps we crossed paths in the way back machine. Most unfortunately for chatology, you inspire me less to ask you questions than to go have a drink for whatever you write about, which may or may not be a good thing, but there it is. (And no, I'm not looking for a date and I'm not your mother, but it is Wednesday and I love the periodic escape). So, in a word, thanks. And cheers.

Jason Wilson: I think I'm blushing...but thank you very much. Maybe our paths did cross long ago -- in, say, October 1988 we would have been that really loud table of 14 sipping out of long straws. Let me know how the tiki drinks work out. Cheers.


Help! It's cookout season and I'm bored...: So, we are entering cookout season, with the usual cookouts and parties and accompanying requests to bring accompaniments. Please save me from making my (good but boring) potato salad (with fresh dill, it is good, mind you) to each and every cookout. I need ideas, new ones, and inspiration...and something so good that my friends and family stop asking for my potato salad. I'm tired of eating it already, and it's only June.

Bonnie Benwick: Why, that's very sad. Potato salad's one of those things I seem to make differently every time we cook out, much to the dismay of my family. Most of the time I do douse the just-drained potatoes with rice vinegar; they really soak up the flavor and it adds a nice note to whatever prep you've got going. That said, this German Potato Salad is anything but boring. It's in my rotation. There's a new cookbook out that might get you through the season: "Potato Salad" by Debbie Moose (Wiley). Yes, that's right one book, 65 recipes.


Annandale, Va.: The zombie recipe in today's paper is the weak version? What in the world is in the high-octane zombie? And is it suitable for serving in a volcano, or would the volcano explode instead of flaming?

Jason Wilson: Yes, as unbelievable as that seems, there is a stronger version of the Zombie that calls for much more 151. Sure, you could serve this in a volcano, but I'd only put a little 151 in the cone and then light it on fire, not the whole drink! Be safe!


Purist's cookie: I am trying to find a favorite recipe for a chocolate chip cookie. I don't want the kitchen sink variety, but the simple ingredients that give the most flavor (butter, sugar, vanilla, flour, eggs). Does anyone have a recipe for the perfect chocolate chip cookie? I prefer the soft cookie, to the crisp.

Bonnie Benwick: I like Alton Brown's chewy recipe, but usually add a little ground espresso powder to it. Chatters, now's your chance to dazzle the Free Range universe.


Easton, Md.: I was recently in Sardinia and had a wonderful sweet fresh ricotta used in a filling for a fried dessert with Sardinian honey.

Domenica Marchetti: Lucky you. Sounds wonderful.


Beans to you!: This question has nothing to do with any article today, but here goes. I read the All we can Eat blog on pressure cooking beans. 6-12 minutes sounds like what this busy working mother of two small children needs (for every meal, but anyway)! I use canned beans because its so easy! I could/would do this; but how does one store the beans? In the past, when I've cooked a whole bag of beans (which is what I would do so I'm not cooking a handful here and there) I'd say half end up going bad, and I hate wasting food. Hence using canned beans (cooked, stored, easy!) Any storage tips you can provide would be appreciated. Thanks!

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Here's the old-fashioned solution to go with an old-fashioned piece of cookware: freeze them. Just cook the beans, use natural release (let the pressure go down before you remove the lid) and drain the beans. Next spread the beans out on a rimmed baking sheet to cool. Pack into serving size containers and freeze. I like to use them within a month of freezing.


Richmond, Va.: Gene Weingarten has emphatically declared that corn grilled or baked in the husk is far superior to boiling corn on the cob.

I would love to give it a shot. Is there any prep work involved? How long should it stay on the grill? If baked, at what temperature and for how long? Do you agree with Gene?


Bonnie Benwick: Gene does emphatic so very well. I wouldn't endorse baking, but this Cambodian Grilled Corn is slap-yourself-silly good. And for the record, Betty Fussell showed me how to briefly boil corn on the cub, in its loosened husk, and it was magic. Guess it all depends on how good the ears are to begin with.


Loved the cheese article: but I'm also slightly irritated that there were no local cheese makers mentioned. There are several in the area, especially for some of the cheeses that are better eating right away. Every single farmers market that I've been to in the area has at least two, if not more, cheese makers, surely some of them could have been included.

Domenica Marchetti: Hi, and thanks for bringing this up. A reader mentioned earlier today that the Reston Farmers Market sells goat's milk ricotta, and the Herndon Farmers Market has vendors that sell a variety of cow's milk and goat's milk cheeses. Unfortunately for me, my little farmers market near Mount Vernon has no cheese vendors (yet), but of course I encourage those who frequent their local farmers markets to give the local cheeses a try. There's nothing better.


Rockville: Hi all. Last week I tasted the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had. I had the recipe the next day and made my own the day after that. While the taste of mine was good, my shape was far inferior to the originals. The originals were tall, thick, and plump, while mine spread out considerably. My sister and mother had no problems when they made them. So what's my problem, then? Should I try adding more flour? Is it a matter of pan? (I use an air-bake one, the one with no sides and holes in the bottom.) I want to try them again, but am afraid. Thanks!

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Your cookie dough might be suffering from heat stroke. Try chilling the dough after shaping and before baking. The cookies will hold their shape better.

Bonnie Benwick: Without seeing the recipe, it's a little hard to diagnose. Might be oven temperature, might be the amount/condition of your flour. But one thing ace cookie baker Raeanne Hytone taught me to do was to bake cookies on parchment and a double-thickness of baking sheets (one stacked on the other; the rimmed kind). The heat remains even and I usually don't even turn the sheet from front to back.


re: delicious, delicious cheese: Have you ever tried grilling Camembert? We do it all the time in the summer (and, yes, we have tried it with Cambozola -- yum!). My favorite method is to put the unwrapped cheese in its box, studded with garlic and drizzled with a little olive oil, and then put the closed box on a piece of tinfoil indirectly over the heat. My boyfriend tends to do nutty things like put the box directly on the grill, and has even experimented with forgoing the box. Anyway, it's so yummy, and goes perfectly with some grilled bread soldiers and a little salad.

Domenica Marchetti: Hi,

I have not tried grilling Camembert or Cambozola, but it sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing.


Washington, D.C.: Every summer I get frustrated when I read delicious recipes in the Food Section that call for outdoor grilling. Have you considered including a note about whether and how to replicate indoors? I have a gas stove and a (small) broiler underneath. Are there any rules of thumb for substituting the broiler for a grill? What about using a grill pan?

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: I think of gas grills as outdoor broilers. Any recipe for DIRECT heat cooking (right over the flame) can be done in broiler. Just remember in a broiler the heat's on top and on a grill the heat's on the bottom.

Recipes that use indirect heat (coals/flame on one side and food on the other) are more problematic. You can use the oven but you'll never replicate the flavor added by the grill.

Grill pans are nice for getting grill marks and are fine for any quick-cooking item, like a chicken breast or a thin steak.

Good luck!


Easton, Md.: We have a wonderful Italian market here in Easton -- Piazza Italian Market -- that has the best selection of Italian cheeses. Have you visited there yet?

Domenica Marchetti: Hi Easton, thanks for what sounds like a great tip for an Italian cheese lover like me. I haven't been, but I plan to remedy that!


Chevy Chase, Md.: Dear Food Staff, I'm so glad Domenica is a guest today. I make her Italian Swordfish stew often (twice a month at least) and was wondering if other fish can be substituted when my fish monger does not have swordfish? Love the recipe! Thank you.

Domenica Marchetti: Hi, and thank you. I love that recipe, too. My newest book, Big Night In, has a similar version that calls for fresh tuna, and uses different herbs (mint and basil). Any good fleshy fish would work well, I would think. Halibut, perhaps?

Bonnie Benwick: Me too. If Joe were here, he'd second that emotion.


Tiki: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! to Jason for the great column on tiki and the awesome recipes. My Mai Tai is very similar (no simple syrup and a float of Goslings on top to add a little color layer). it's nice to see the kitsch of tiki with the reverence of quality cocktails and their history. Robert Hess has also recently shown some respect for this genre in his video blog.

Today's drinks, plus last weeks "real" pina colada has me planning a little neighborhood Tiki party.

Jason Wilson: Very cool re: the tiki party... I mean, I'm free next Sunday...


Capitol Hill:: Bravo for the tuna recipe today calling for big-eye or sushi-grade bluefin. Have you not heard the general chorus calling for a ban on fishing these almost extinct species? Way to lead the way, WP. Shame on you. Although I doubt you'll post an educational link for your editors and audience, I hope someone at the food section will read at least this article.

Bonnie Benwick: And here's hoping that in the future, you'll read a little more carefully. We did not mention bluefin at all, and 3 kinds of big-eye tuna are listed as Good Alternatives on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch.


Metro Center: Posting early because I've got a meeting...Do you guys have a good remedy for getting pepper extract off of one's fingers? I roasted and de-seeded some habaneros and poblanos last night, and despite several washings, a shower, etc., my fingers still sting a bit. Any thoughts? Thanks!

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Try cornstarch. Rub into into hands. Rinse off and repeat if necessary. You might want to invest in a small box of disposable medical gloves. They're available in any drugstore. They stop that problem and are great when you're cutting raw poultry.


Goya: Seconding Goya. Man is it a good ginger ale (I can barely drink it plain), and for 75 cents, much cheaper than other good varieties.

Jason Wilson: Good to hear. I'll have to check it out


Washington, D.C.: When my mom came to visit she made chicken stock, which she froze a gallon of for me. So what can I do with it? She made it pretty simply, so I was wondering if it's too late to reboil and infuse ginger in it to give it an Asian soup taste. Any recipes? Thanks.

Bonnie Benwick: Way to go, Mom. You've got some gold there. (Did she separate/freeze it in small amounts, I hope?) You can indeed infuse some of it with ginger, but I'd also suggest reducing some of it down, down, down, until you've got the base of a demi-glace (used for sauces). Freeze it in cubes. You'll have the makings of a great sauce whenever you need it, and for sure any pal of yours who's a good cook would appreciate some cubes as a gift. Really.


Tiki!: I think I heard on the Going Out Guru that a new Tiki bar might be opening in D.C., but there is no mention in the article today. Any new info on this rumor?

Jason Wilson: I believe the Gurus mentioned Agraria's new tiki drink menu, which is what I also mentioned in this piece. According to bar manager Jon Arroyo, they launched their new tiki drinks last Monday.


Chickpea dish with wild rice: Hi Crew, Love the chats. I'm moving in a few weeks and trying to come up with dishes for items already in my pantry. Last night I put together pork with sweet potatoes and a side of black beans. Today I'm looking for something that will incorporate wild rice and chickpeas. Any suggestions? Thanks!

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: I have a recipe that uses white rice, spinach and chickpeas. I think it'd be great if you substituted a wild rice and brown rice combo instead of the white rice. We're going to give you a link below.

Bonnie Benwick: Cumin-Scented Chickpeas With Basmatic Rice.


Frozen north - for Jason: Hi Jason -- are you going to try Swedish Punch while you are there? Any ideas how to replicate it here in the U.S.?

I have to say, the mai tai is perhaps the most perfect cocktail ever. During our long winters, tiki drinks are a fun way to get through a long cold night. One time we made a batch with blue curacao just for fun. Mai Tais also make an excellent blender drink.

I agree with you on the orgeat being essential, and while it's great to know I can make my own orgeat, I may as well buy a bottle from my local coffee shop rather than buy all of the exotic things in the recipe! Also anyone with nut allergies needs to steer clear of it.

Jason Wilson: As a matter of fact, I have ducked out of a cocktail party where we are drinking cocktails with Swedish punch right now. As for Mai Tais and orgeat, you should try to make it -- honestly, the ingredients aren't that exotic, and you can find orange and rose water where you find good baking ingredients.


Arlington, Va S: Mmm... cheese...

A question on Scamorza -- in the article, "smoked scamorza" was used several times. I thought that scamorza was always smoked but you have me wondering...

I love all things smoked. I've been trying to find a smoked ricotta to no avail. I first had it in the Alps near Sauris (in Friuli-Venezia Giulia). Any insights as to where it might be carried locally?

Any thoughts to pairings for a smoked cheese? Impulsively I might reach for a smoked beer from Bamburg (Shlenkerla, Special), but maybe they'd cancel each other out. You'd think that I'd have tried this by this point, but I've never had smoked cheese and smoked beer in the house at the same time!

Domenica Marchetti: Hi Arlington,

There are both smoked and unsmoked scamorzas. The unsmoked one tastes a bit like a young provolone. I personally prefer the smoked one, as I, too, love all things smoked. As for smoked ricotta, I've also searched for it around here but have come up empty-handed. We have a backyard smoker, and I've thought of trying to do it myself but haven't yet.

As for pairing, I have to admit that I am not a wine authority (I leave that to my husband who is much better at it). I like a somewhat sturdy red with grilled smoked scamorza, but then again I like somewhat sturdy reds with just about everything (except maybe breakfast cereal).


Gaithersburg, Md. : Hello Rangers, I really enjoy the chat! I am trying to avoid using soy sauce due to an allergy and was wondering if salt can be used in place of soy sauce in any recipe? If so, is it an equal substitution?

Bonnie Benwick: Boy, it really depends on the recipe. Is it a soy- or wheat allergy? You know about wheat-free tamari, right? I see a soy sauce substitute recipe online that calls for beef bouillon, balsamic vinegar, molasses, white pepper, garlic powder and water. Chatters, what do you use instead of soy sauce? If you're not allergic to soy, maybe Bragg Liquid Aminos might work for you.


Grill-centered party: Thanks for these great discussions! So, we're getting a new (gas) grill, and I want to have a dinner party themed around grilling. But I'm not thinking about the usual burgers, etc. I want something a little more... challenging. My thoughts include a panzanella salad featuring grilled vegetables (summer squash, zucchini, etc.) and fresh tomatoes (it is about that time of year) and perhaps some grilled fruit for dessert. But what about a show-stopping main/meat dish? Among the guests are some fish-only vegetarians, so it would either have to be a seafood dinner or a combination of meat & seafood... Help me welcome the new grill in style!

Bonnie Benwick: Boy, if you can wait just 1 week, you'll get the recipe for David Hagedorn's Chipotle Grill-Roasted Rack of Pork (in our June 17 Food section). If not, try his Assorted Grilled Kebabs, which are fab as well.


New York, N.Y. : A variation on the classic Nestle Tollhouse Cookie is my standby.... Substitute 1/2 cup of shortening for 1/2 of the butter (it keeps it softer, less flat and crispy), up the vanilla to 1 tablespoon, and use better chocolate than Nestles (I often go half milk, half dark Ghiradelli chips). And cook at 350 instead of 375.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup (1 sticks) butter, softened-- DO NOT SOFTEN IN THE MICROWAVE-- this will make for flat cookies -- leave out at room temp to soften1/2 cup shortening3/4 cup granulated sugar3/4 cup packed brown sugar 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 2 large eggs 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) of chocolate chips

Directions: PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Bonnie Benwick: Okay, N.Y., you're the first.


Bethesda Mom: Greetings Food Gurus:

I'm trying to get my family to eat more lean meats -- not easy since my husband refuses to eat chicken -- and I'm intrigued by the tuna recipe. I tend either to just squeeze lemon on fish, or brush fillets with a ginger-soy sauce before cooking. As one who is allergic to mangoes, should I just leave them out, or is there a substitute I could use?

Bonnie Benwick: Hi Bethesda Mom. We're always happy to see you at Free Range time. The spice blend for the tuna is light and really nice. Kids wouldn't mind it. No mangoes, no problem. Can you do cantaloupe? Fresh peaches (soon, I know)?


Easton, Md.: Any suggestions for stuffing squash blossoms? Looking for something different.

Domenica Marchetti: Hi Easton,

I have a recipe in Big Night In for stuffed squash blossoms that calls for a little piece of mozzarella, a whole basil leaf, and a sliver of anchovy. Very savory and summery.


Ginger Beer: Bundaberg Ginger Beer from Australia is absolutely the best for a Dark and Stormy or Ginger Mojito (no syrup or sugar; substitute ginger beer for club soda). It's available at World Market.

Jason Wilson: Wow. I may have to organize a ginger beer tasting for an upcoming column.


Colorado Springs: So what is it, exactly, that makes professional chefs so contemptuous of using a garlic press? I've seen this in Bourdain's writing, and in Kim O'Donnell's stuff here in the Post. Is there an actual, practical difference, or is it just "That's not a shortcut a real chef would take"?

Bonnie Benwick: It's not a necessary tool for them, that's all. Think how slow it would be, how borderline carpal tunnel syndrome-inducing, if a chef used a garlic press on 200 cloves each day -- as opposed to, say, putting a bunch of cloves on a cutting board, whacking them with the great big flat side of a chef's knife and wailing on them chop-chop-chop as fast as you were trained to do.

A garlic press is good for keeping garlic aroma off your hands, or it can process garlic finely in a way that a home cook might not be able to do with a knife. Does that make sense?


Falls Church, Va.: Have you had the usual deluge of complaints from people complaining that you offered cheese as a vegetarian pizza option?

Domenica Marchetti: Not that I know of, Falls Church. It is vegetarian, isn't it? (not vegan)


Silver Spring, Md.: The tiki drink article made me laugh...I started at BU in 1990 (Jason, where did you go?) and definitely had my share of scorpion bowls. I know you said the specific rums are important for the recipes, but lacking the space and money for many different kinds, any rum suggestions for a simplified bar cabinet?

Jason Wilson: Ha, I was a freshman at BU in 1988 and then transferred to University of Vermont, and then returned again to BU for grad school in the 90s. So yes, also a few Scorpion Bowls. As for rums on tight space and budget...hmm. Let's say 3 bottles. I would go with Flor de Cana 7 year, a rhum agricole like Rhum Clement, and a white rum (which you'll mainly use for mixing).


Things in season: There has been beautiful zucchini and summer squash at the market the last two weeks and there's only going to be more as we move through June.

As too a good lunch -- I had this today: 4 cups green beans cut into one inch pieces and blanched 1 cup uncooked Quinoa, prepared according to directions 12 large olives, chopped (any kind) 2 roasted red peppers1/4 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes 3 oz feta diced (using Blue Ridge Dairy's feta today, it's great)1/8 cup cornichons 2 T olive oil 2 T mild vinegar

In a few weeks the beans and peppers will be at the market and I can already get the feta and sun dried tomatoes there.

Bonnie Benwick: Alrighty. And I'm feeling much better now...Jane Touzalin (the best copy editor on the planet) brought in some potential Good to Go fare.


re Ricotta and Bittersweet Chocolate Tart: Cheese and chocolate together?! Fat + fat? I don't doubt this is fabulously, unimaginably delicious and am surprised I never thought of it on my own. But I am wondering if you are in league with some devil, to tempt me so ...

Domenica Marchetti: Why yes, I am!

No really, it is such a wonderful dessert. It comes from a small trattoria in Lucca that I went to with my family last year. My 12-year-old son and I both fell in love with it. However, because it is so rich, you only need a sliver to satisfy.


Cookout Menu Help: I'm visiting family next week, and they will have a cookout for me! However, the hostess wants to know what I'd like besides burgers and grilled corn on the cob. She suggested potato salad or boxed mac n cheese. I suggested spinach, she said she can't cook it on the grill.

What can I suggest that is easy to do, and will upgrade the menu but still be something she's likely to enjoy? (NB: no fish or fishy sauces.)

Got any great ideas for grilled veggies for unadventurous eaters? There will be 6-8 of us for dinner that night. I'm a day's drive away, but I could take something if it didn't need to be kept cold.

She's trying to do something really nice for me, so I want to help upgrade while still making it -her- shindig.


Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Sure, you can just slice zucchini lengthwise, about 1/4-inch thick, Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, black pepper and/or crushed red pepper and grill on both sides until tender. Transfer to a bowl and let sit until you're to serve.

Or blanch (par-cook) asparagus for 3 to 4 minutes in boiling water, Coat lightly with oil, salt and pepper and place on grill until the spears start to brown. Remove and toss with lemon zest. Once again, serve at room temperature.

Sound good to you?


Gaithersburg, Md.: Best cookies ever:

Joanne's Chocolate Chip Cookies 1 cup Butter 2 cups Flour 1 tsp. Baking soda 1 cup Sugar 1 cup Brown sugar 2 1/2 cups Oatmeal (Measure oatmeal and blend in blender to a fine powder.) 12 oz. Chocolate chips1/2 tsp. Salt 4 oz. Hershey bar, grated 2 Eggs 1 tsp. Baking powder 1 1/2 cups Chopped nuts 1 tsp. Vanilla

Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla; mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and soda. Add chocolate chips, Hershey bar and nuts. Roll into balls and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 112 (56) cookies.

Bonnie Benwick: May have to try these.


Bethesda: I know that strawberries are in season now. What other fruits are good now? I'm always caught between the end of citrus season and the beginning of peaches. (My husband is pretty fussy, but lovable.)

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: My family's really enjoying local apples from the farmers' market. They're storage apples from last fall but much better tasting then anything I was buying over the winter in the supermarket. The ones we've been getting-Cameo, Rome and Golden Delicious-come from Pennsylvania.

Bonnie Benwick: Raspberries are now.


Hey Jason: Wouldn't it be fun to invent a cocktail (sorry folks, with alcohol) made with Dr. Brown's Celery soda? What would you put in it? gin and a grape tomato?

Jason Wilson: Yes it would be fun indeed. I'd maybe muddle some cherry tomatoes and a little herb like cilantro, and add a little tequila and maybe a sliver of jalapeno as a garnish? I don't know...maybe others have suggestions?


RE: Chickpea dish with wild rice: Thanks for the recipe! Can I substitute frozen spinach?

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: You can but it's not as good -- make sure you buy whole leaf spinach.

Right now baby spinach is in season locally. Stop by a market and try some. It's almost sweet.


Washington D.C.: Loved the wine article today...I've made a list of all the varieties of grapes and plan on trying each. Was wondering, in staying with Spanish whites, if you could recommend some good, affordable cavas? Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: Dave sez -- Cava is a wonderful, affordable way to turn any day into a celebration. Bubbles will do that for you. For those unfamiliar with cava - it is Spanish sparkling wine, from Penedes, and they rarely break the $20 mark. Not as rich and complex as champagne, but cheap and satisfying. My favorites are Cristallino (which also has a good rose, Segura Viudas, and Poema. There's a weirdly named winery called 1+1=3 that also makes a very nice (and slightly pricier - $15-$20) cava - this might be the one to impress your champagne-loving friends.


Columbus, Ohio: So, since you have the "Zero-Proof" cocktails on your desk, are there any ideas in there for a pregnant woman who suddenly has cravings for white wine all the time? Lemonade just isn't cutting it...


Bonnie Benwick: There are 12 recipes, in fact. Hang in may win the prize. I have great empathy for women who are very pregnant in warm weather.


Grilled corn...on the broiler?: Can you make that grilled corn on the boiler inside? Please tell me you can and give me directions -- it sounds so good!

Bonnie Benwick: Broiler? Sure. Just take off the husks altogether, and keep turning and basting till the kernels get carmelized.


Grilled corn: I tried the Cambodian corn recipe last season, and had a hard time getting it to carmalize. we ended up eating the sauce with a spoon after pouring it over the finished cobs (the sauce is killer) but it missed some of the crispiness I was hoping for - what did I do wrong?

Also -- I usually let my corn soak in water, place it on the grill in the husk until it is finished (I try a bit of the end to test) husk them quickly and brown them a bit over the coals.

Bonnie Benwick: The corn has to get pretty hot; as I recall it really caramelized on the indirect side or even foil-lined part of the grill.


Washington, D.C.: Great article today on cheese. I've always read that most cheeses should be kept in wax paper. Why does cheese need to breathe?

Domenica Marchetti: Hi D.C. Great question: Here is what the American Cheese Society has to say about why cheese need to breathe:

"Always rewrap cheese in fresh wrapping, preferably in waxed or parchment paper, after the cheese has been opened to avoid having the cheese dry out or pick up other flavors. Remember that natural cheese is a living organism, with enzymes and bacteria that need air and moisture to survive. Thus, rewrapping the cheese in paper and then in plastic wrap to create a microenvironment for the cheese is the preferred storage treatment. However, you should not leave cheese in the same wrappings for extended periods of time."

Hope this helps!


Fruit: I've gotten some excellent mangoes and pineapples recently. Mangoes from Bestway, pineapples from Whole Foods. The mangoes weren't ripe when I bought them, but they sure were when I ate them. Mmm!

Bonnie Benwick: Some good to be had there, I agree.


Chocolate Chip Cookies: My all time favorite recipe -- won the competition at my office.

Bonnie Benwick: Shoot, I don't have to time to peruse your link now. But I'll take a look.


bored cookout season again...: Hi! Thanks for the potato salad recipe! I didn't mean to be sad. I love potato salad and I even love my potato salad. But, I have some potlucks coming up, and I'd love to have some ideas other than potato salad. For this weekend's family cookout I agreed to help my mom by bringing two dishes, and it just might seem kinda weird to show up with potato salad and...potato salad? Not that I meant to imply there's anything at all wrong with potato salad.

But, since you were nice enough to share your favorite potato salad recipe, I'll share mine, which is a modified Nigella recipe, I believe:

4 medium white potatoes 1 tsp salt 1/2 tsp pepper 3 hard-boiled eggs (chopped) 1 cup chopped celery 3 tbsp chopped fresh dill 1 tbsp chopped dill pickles 1 tbsp yellow mustard 1/2 cup mayonnaise

Boil potatoes whole. Drain and let the potatoes cool. Peel and cut potatoes in small pieces. Season potatoes well with salt and pepper. Add all other ingredients and mix well. Chill.

Bonnie Benwick: Ah, so you're a pickle person.


Washington, D.C.: I overbought cucumbers at the farmer's market this week. (They were so pretty! And delicious!) Got any ideas? I've been slicing thinly and putting on toast with salt and pepper, and let me tell you, it's awesome, but I need another idea. An idea that goes through cucumbers faster.

Domenica Marchetti: Have you ever tried sautéing cucumbers? I love to make a summer sauté of cucumbers, summer squash, and radishes, all diced, with a little chopped scallion and fresh dill.

At the end I add just a splash of cream. Don't overcook--the vegetables should still have a little crunch to them. It's surprisingly good dish. The sautéing mellows out the flavors of the radishes and cucumbers.


Raleigh, N.C.: Squash is overtaking my CSA box. Any ideas for using it up? We've grilled it as a side and added it to pasta and stir fry, but there's still more (and more to follow next week). Perhaps I should follow the Lake Wobegoners and break into neighbors' cars and leave squash?

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: You could make relish, but that would probably make you wish you'd baked a dozen zucchini breads instead. I like to cut the zucchini into spears, coat with olive oil and parmesan cheese and bake until tender and golden. Try it!


Philadelphia, Penn.: It's my birthday! To celebrate in a food-centric fashion without overindulging myself in rich dishes and feeling ill afterward (um, not that that's happened on previous birthdays...after fondue...), I'm headed to a casual seafood restaurant that just opened here. I expect to range far and wide across the menu.

If it were you, what would you indulge in? Oysters? Clams? Chilled lobster? Scallops? What's your pleasure, seafood-wise?

(And have you heard of snapper soup? Apparently it's local... and that meat isn't red snapper, it's turtle?!)

Specific oyster suggestions would be great...I have only had them once or twice but understand there is a whole wide variety and lots of folks have their personal favorites.

Bonnie Benwick: Mazel tov. It's hard to improve upon fresh oysters. I like kumamotos and Prince Edward Island types; very different from each other. Have them with a glass of something bubbly. Snapper soup, I have not had the pleasure to try.


Rum for the Dark & Stormy: Hi Jason,

This could be completely wrong, but we either use Sailor Jerry's (which I understand was roundly panned by F. Paul Picoult), or we have also used Captain Morgan's Private Reserve.

Do you recommend others?

To the potato salad poster -- my crucial ingredient is diced pickles. So, so tasty!

Jason Wilson: Well, you're using spiced rums, which I am also not a fan of. But if it works for you, it works. If you want to try something different, though, I might recommend Pampero Anniversario, Ron Zacapo 23, or my old favorite, Flor de Cana 7 yr old


Cabbage: My favorite way to make cabbage is to cook diced bacon, garlic and rosemary, add the sliced cabbage, salt and pepper and enough white wine to mostly cover everything. Put a top on and let it simmer for about half an hour. It's delicious.

Bonnie Benwick: That does sound good. What's the house-aroma rating, on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the fresh, out-loud sardines I roasted a few weeks back?


Strawberries!: I just want to second the strawberries plus balsamic combo. It's such a great simple salad: berries, greens (spinach is my favorite) and a balsamic dressing. Sometimes I get crazy and make the dressing in the blender and add some strawberries to it. Poppy seeds also make a nice addition. I also like to add some goat cheese (just to bring it full circle) and almonds. You can also macerate strawberries in a combo of sugar and really good balsamic vinegar (a ratio of about 2 to 1). On top of vanilla ice cream it is oh my good!

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: When blackberries come into season, try them in your blender-magic dressing. They add a wonderful sweet/tart counterpoint to a salad dressing.


About the ricotta/bitter chocolate tart: Thank you so much for the recipe for the Ricotta bitter chocolate tart-- I was lucky enough to be in Lucca in March and ate at Osteria Baralla and am so excited to try this recipe and show off yet another stunning experience from my vacation!

Domenica Marchetti: Wow! We may have been there on the same day -- March is when I was there, too. Isn't that a wonderful, unassuming little place? I had to go back there two more times to satisfy my craving for the tart. When I got home I decided I needed to learn how to make it myself so I called them up and they kindly emailed me a sketchy version of the recipe, which I translated and tweaked a bit for the home kitchen.


Philadelphia, Penn.: Regarding spreading cookies: make sure your cookie sheets are cool, as well as the dough. If you put dough on a warm cookie sheet, the butter starts to melt before you get it in the oven, and your cookies will spread and flatten. If you like thick cookies, it's best to have enough cookie sheets for a whole batch, so you don't have to reuse them after they've just come out of the oven!

Bonnie Benwick: That is true.


re: garlic press: I don't own one, but I've used them before and I find the clean up of one isn't worth it. I'd rather just smash a clove with my knife, pull the peel out, and mince very fine.

Bonnie Benwick: That would be the chef's view, too, I bet.


Adventures in Boulder: Hi All! No peeves, complaints or snark, just a couple of thank yous... first for linking to the watermelon recipes last week. We made the grilled tilapia tacos with watermelon salsa twice this past week we loved them so. A second thank you for the inspiration you provide every week. I went to my farmer's market on Saturday and bought gorgeous produce I haven't tried before: turnips (mashed last night), baby chard, garlic scapes (sautéed both, put over pasta with chopped pecans & parmesan), baby french shallots (? I think that's what he said they were?) and rhubarb (rhubarb ginger jam). Luckily I have a boyfriend who will eat whatever I put in front of him. Thanks again!

Bonnie Benwick: Awesome. I'm headed out that way next weekend. What's the best thing to get in a Colo. farmers market?


U Street: Submitting early because of a meeting (don't they know I'm always busy at 1 on Wednesdays?!)

A few years back when I was first getting into cooking, I purchased a big, wonderful, heavy cast iron skillet. Sadly, at the time, I had no real idea how to handle it and after a couple failed attempts at cooking steaks in it without seasoning it first, it was relegated it to the back of my cabinet. Now that I'm older, wiser, and desperate to cook with my skillet, is there any way to save it? Do any of you lovely people know if a used and abused cast iron skillet somehow be rehabbed and brought back to life?

Many thanks for your help -- absolutely adore your chats and I can't wait to get out my meeting to come read this one!

Bonnie Benwick: Just how abused is it?

I've pasted in these tips from a story Walter Nicholls did when he visited the Lodge folks:

Seasoning is an ongoing process. The more you use your cast iron, the better seasoned it gets. Seasoning takes time and repeated use before a pan develops the shiny, black surface like your grandmother's cast-iron cookware. Unlike synthetically coated cookware, cast iron can be seasoned, then re-seasoned and its cooking surface restored.

Here are the directions Lodge Manufacturing provides: There are as many opinions on seasoning cast iron as there are cast-iron cooks. Preferences on what type of oil, how much oil, how hot to make the oven and how long to bake the cookware are as varying as recipes for sweet tea and corn bread. But one fact is inarguable: Cast iron has to be seasoned before use, unless you're fortunate enough to have pried a well-seasoned skillet from your grandmother's stash (or to have purchased Lodge Logic, a factory-seasoned, ready-to-use, cast-iron cookware introduced last year).

Seasoning allows the pores of the pan to absorb oil, turning the gray skillet black and slick. There are two objectives in this process:

1. To coat the cookware to prevent rust; and

2. To create a nonstick cooking surface.

Seasoning is an ongoing process. The more you use your cast iron, the better seasoned it gets. Seasoning takes time and repeated use before a pan develops the shiny, black surface like your grandmother's cast-iron cookware. Unlike synthetically coated cookware, cast iron can be seasoned, then re-seasoned and its cooking surface restored.

To season your untreated cast-iron cookware

1. Wash the new cast-iron cookware in hot, soapy water. This should be the only time you use soap. Rinse the pan and dry it completely. Discoloration on the towel is normal.

2. Using a soft cloth or paper towel, apply a thin, even coating of melted solid shortening or vegetable oil evenly over the entire surface of the pan, including handle and exterior surfaces. (Do not use butter or butter-flavored shortening.)

3. Line the entire lower oven rack with aluminum foil to catch any drippings and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the cookware, upside down, on the top or middle rack. Bake for one hour, then turn the oven off, leaving the cookware in the oven until cool. At that point, the cookware is seasoned and ready to use. (A newly seasoned piece of cast-iron cookware will look slightly brown instead of black. This is normal. Over time and with use, your cookware will become shiny and black.)

To use, clean and store cast-iron cookware

Properly cared for cast-iron cookware will last more than a lifetime.

1. Always allow the skillet to heat up with the burner or oven. Never place a cold skillet on a hot surface. Always wash the cookware immediately after cooking while it is still somewhat warm but not hot.

2. Clean your cast-iron cookware with hot water and a stiff brush. Do not use soap, unless you are going to repeat the seasoning process. (Detergents will remove the seasoning.) Do not put in the dishwasher. Avoid putting very hot cast iron into very cold water; the resulting thermal shock can cause it to warp or crack.

3. Immediately towel-dry the cookware, then apply a light coating of vegetable oil to the cookware while it is still warm.

4. Store your cast iron in a cool, dry place. If your cookware has a lid, place a folded paper towel between the two to allow air to circulate, or store the lid elsewhere. (Cast iron needs air circulation.)

5. Do not use cookware as a food-storage vessel.

6. To remove heavy food or grease build-up, scour with steel wool (SOS pad, etc.), then re-season according to the preceding instructions.

7. If your cookware shows signs of rust, simply scour off the rust, wash the cookware with soap and hot water, then re-season according to the preceding instructions.


Soup au pistou: I was given some pesto sauce, which I froze in the ice cube tray. I was told it would be good in vegetable soup. Any other ideas what I could do with it? Do you have a recipe for soup pisto?

Bonnie Benwick: Here it is, way back from our 1981 archives. Sorry for the format!


8 servings

For the soup

1 cup dried Great Northern beans

A bouquet garni of 6 sprigs of parsley, 1 bay leaf and a few sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme) Salt to taste

2 young zucchini, scrubbed but not peeled, and cut into 1-inch chunks

2 young yellow squash, scrubbed but not peeled, and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 large handful of string beans, ends snapped off and cut into 2-inch pieces

1 large onion, peeled and diced 2 medium-large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

3 small firm turnips (optional), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks 2 tender stalks celery, cut into 1-inch chunks

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup water

12 cups chicken broth

1 medium potato, peeled and diced

1/3 cup ditalini or tiny pasta shells

For the pistou

8 fat cloves of garlic, peeled

12 large basil leaves

1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, scalded for 10 seconds, skinned, seeded and chopped

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Soak the beans overnight in 3 quarts of cold water. The next day, drain them, add 2 quarts of fresh water, the bouquet garni and the salt. Bring to a simmer, skim and cook until tender, about 1 hour. Leave the beans in their liquid and set aside.

Place the vegetables, except for the potato, in a large pot along with the 1/4 cup olive oil and water. I use a seven-quart enamel-on-iron casserole. Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently until the water has evaporated. Do not brown or scorch the vegetables. Quickly add the chicken stock, salt to taste and diced potato and bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the ditalini or tiny pasta shells and cook 10 more minutes. The vegetables should retain some crunch. Remove the bouquet garni from the beans and add the beans and their liquid to the vegetables.

While the soup is cooking, make the pistou. Put the garlic and basil in a food processor with the olive oil. (If you use a blender, you will have to do this in two batches.) Process them briefly and then add the tomatoes. Process until the tomatoes are puréed. Add pepper. Bring the soup with the beans to a simmer. Beat the pistou into the soup and heat, but do not let it boil. Serve from the pot at the table.


WDC: I received a Le Creuset petite au gratin dish, but am not sure what to do with it. I would love to make easy desserts or veggie sides, but don't like the idea of lots of cream and cheese to kill the nutrition (think scalloped potatoes). What could I make?

Bonnie Benwick: A little crème brulee now and then wouldn't hurt (depending). The dish seems just the right size for a single-size fruit cobbler. Maybe for a lighter version of a spinach gratin, too. You could bake a carrot or squash pudding, or build a small ratatouille with diced eggplant, tomatoes, onions...


Chevy Chase, Md.: What would you serve with grilled veal chops? (It's a special occasion.) I'd prefer something locally in season, and suitable for hot weather.

Domenica Marchetti: How about a grilled vegetable salad? Cut up some seasonal vegetables--eggplant, zucchini, peppers, cherry tomatoes, red onions, whatever you like. Skewer the small ones. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until charred and somewhat softened. Cut larger pieces into chunks, toss all the vegetables together with a simple dressing of wine vinegar, a little balsamic, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.

I also like to serve chops with a savory tomato and cheese tart on the side.


Falls Church, Va.: After making a batch of watermelon sorbet, I have quite a bit of watermelon puree left. Any ideas for what I can do with it?

Bonnie Benwick: I immediately thought of those Mexican agua fresca drinks. You could strain the puree to yield watermelon juice, then add citrus juice and maybe a little sugar. Or you could use the puree as the basis for some kind of fresh fruit salsa. Chatters, ideas?


Washington, D.C.: Hi there! Do you have a favorite limoncello recipe? We've found some with vodka and others with grain alcohol, and are wondering which works best. Any other favorite interesting liquor recipes for a novice to make at home? Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: You betcha. This was so popular when we ran it in 2005 that folks asked for it 2 years later, too.


Makes about 31/4 quarts

Those who are lucky enough to receive this homemade lemon liqueur should keep it in the freezer, where it turns a milky white after 8 to 9 hours. It can be sipped straight-up, mixed with tonic or dashed into champagne. Recipe adapted from Magdalena Borea.

17 large lemons, preferably organic

Two 750-milliliter bottles grain alcohol

51/2 cups water

6 cups sugar

Wash and dry the lemons. With a paring knife, remove the ends. With a vegetable peeler, remove only the yellow rind, leaving the pith intact. (Squeeze juice from the lemons and reserve for another use.)

Place the lemon peel in a 4-quart Mason jar with a rubber-seal lid. Add the grain alcohol, making sure the lemon peel is completely covered. Store in a cool, dark place, shaking the jar once each day to agitate the lemon peel.

On the 13th day, bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the sugar and remove from the heat, stirring until it is dissolved. Cover and let cool to room temperature.

Place a colander on top of the saucepan and strain in the contents of the Mason jar. Discard the lemon peel. Stir to combine the liquids, about 1 minute. Transfer back to the Mason jar. Store for 3 weeks in a cool, dark place, shaking to agitate the liquid twice a day.

After 3 weeks, transfer the limoncello to smaller bottles that can be sealed with rubber stoppers. Store bottles in freezer. Serve directly from the freezer.

Per 1.5-ounce serving: 92 calories, 0 g protein, 19 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g saturated fat, 1 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber


Metro DC: I agree about strawberries and balsamic vinegar. My aunt made a dessert of mixed berries, balsamic vinegar and sugar and it was fantastic. I think this dessert is Italian.

Bonnie Benwick: Mmm.


Bethesda, Md.: Submitting early because I'll be in a meeting during the live chat...

Back in April, I planted a small garden which included what I thought were 2 bell pepper plants -- one yellow and one red. They are next to each other & essentially get the same amount of sun, have the same soil, etc., so I have been perplexed why one plant grew to twice the size of the other. The mystery, however, has been solved now that the larger plant has started producing peppers: it's not a bell pepper plant after all.

I suspect I have some sort of hot pepper. Based on the size/shape of the peppers that are showing up, I'm guessing maybe a banana pepper? I know nothing about these, so can you tell me what to look for to know that they're ready to be picked & more importantly, give me some ideas for what to do with them once they're harvested?


Bonnie Benwick: Gardening columnist Adrian Higgins says you need to know what the variety is, and its color when ripe. Typically, a pepper takes four to six weeks after green stage to ripen.


Rhubarb Ginger Jam?: Got a recipe to share for that one?

Bonnie Benwick: Yep.


Re: Garlic Press: I only recently got a garlic press and mostly like it. However, I was cooking something the other day which needed about three tablespoons of garlic and the cloves were pretty small. Chopping was definitely the way to go on that recipe! That said, if it's only one or two cloves, I like the press.

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: The sad truth is that fresh garlic doesn't need the press, it's easy to chop by hand, but much of the garlic available in supermarkets is already drying out. That's where the press comes in handy. Avoid the problem by buying from a market that sells locally grown garlic or look for firm, healthy looking bulbs with no signs of shrinkage.


Boulder again: The growing season is very different here than the East Coast. Last weekend at the Boulder Farmer's Market (it's a great market) I saw lots of greens, turnips, radishes (purple, red and pink) and the end of rhubarb. Peonies are also in full bloom and many farmers were selling bunches. Can't wait for the end of July when it's Palisade Peach season here. Truly the best peaches I've ever had.

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Let's just hope the rain doesn't kill the flavor of the local peaches. Too much water and the flavor isn't sweet enough to satisfy.


Washington, D.C.: Hi,

In Austria a few months ago I ate Liptauer cheese. Any thoughts on it? I think it is a blend or a spread as opposed to a "true" cheese as Domenica writes about.


Domenica Marchetti: Hi Washington,

I admit I had to google 'liptauer' as I had never heard of it. It is indeed a blend of fresh cheeses (cream cheese, cottage cheese) with lots of savory stuffed mixed in--capers, paprika, caraway seeds, black pepper. It sounds delicious--all flavors I love. I may have to try it. Thanks for writing.


Grilling an Oven Roaster Chicken..Where did I go wrong?: Decided to grill one of these big chickens. I cut it up into 8 parts and marinated for a few hours. I fix my grill to be half hot zone with coals and the other half for slower cooking and no coals. I use a typical Weber grill. I seared the meat on both sides and moved it to the no coals zone and covered and used a meat probe to make sure it was done.

I was not satisfied with the results from the Oven Roaster. The regular chicken I cooked turned out fine. Should I not marinate an Oven Roaster?

Thank you!

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: I prefer to cook chickens around four pounds, but I don't think that was your problem. You should not have cut the chicken up. If you keep the chicken whole you trap a lot of the natural juices. Cut it up after the fact and I think you'll be happier with the results.


Terp in the Kitchen: Is there an "easy" way to know which fish will cook well stove-top? I've had good results with tilapia, catfish, and a few others, but turbot(I think it was turbot - maybe one other type) fell apart on me twice. Medium high heat, well-seasoned cast iron skillet with butter or olive oil or a non-stick skillet. But when I go to turn the fillet, well, fish pieces. The taste remains good, but it's certainly not pretty.

Bonnie Benwick: You may glean some fish knowledge from this Gastronomer column of a while back.


Cucumber thoughts : So happy to be visiting my farmer's market (Burke) each Saturday! To the person seeking ideas for cukes. One of my favorite ways to enjoy cukes goes back to my childhood in Maine where my dad grew them every year. Just plain old white sandwich bread, with mayo, and sliced cukes with salt and pepper. Talk about comfort! Also, I just saw this recipe for a Cucumber Gazpacho that looks great -- plan on trying this weekend myself.

Bonnie Benwick: Ah, you just made it in time. I might head out to Burke this weekend.


Bonnie Benwick: As Editor Joe might say, "Well, we've been blended with Don's Mix, poured into a Collins glass and garnished with a sprig of mint," so you know what that means...

Thanks to our merry band: Domenica, Stephanie and Jason, and to all you chatters who kept things lively! Winners today are Ms. pregnant mom in need of something lemony to drink, and to the birthday poster with seafood in his/her sights. Remember to send name/address info to so we can send the books your way.

Next week in Food: Grilling, Counter Culture coffee and the inside scoop on Washington's newest gelato. Happy cooking!


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