Free Range on Food: Old Bay, Goodbye 'Gourmet,' Best Hot Sauces, Sore Throat Remedies, More

The Food Section
of the Washington Post
Wednesday, October 7, 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 of this week's chat follows.

Archive of past discussions


Bonnie Benwick: Nice day today. The weather report said gusty and rainy, but only half of that's accurate thus far. What's shakin' -- could it be your can of Old Bay, so nicely profiled by Jane Black? Was your appetite for small squashes etc. whetted by Editor Joe's Cooking for One column? Maybe we need more group therapy about no more Gourmet. The mag's office voicemail and e-mails are already bouncing back....FYI, Joe's only available for a short time today, so if you have q's for him, send 'em fast.

We've got Judith Jones's new "Pleasures of Cooking for One" and the voluminous "More Best Recipes" from the Cook's Illustrated to give away. Check at the end of the chat, where, as usual, winners will be advised to their send snail-mail info to

Bonnie Benwick: Ah, I almost forgot: Spirits columnist Jason Wilson may join in the fun.


Baltimore: As a college student, I really appreciate the cooking for one column, and I'm excited to try the stuffed eggplant recipe from this week's column. Could I substitute black beans or chickpeas for the meat, or is there a better vegetarian protein I could use? Thanks! Love the chats!

Joe Yonan: Glad you're liking the column! I love both black beans and chickpeas, and think the latter would be a perfectly good sub in this recipe. It would keep it in the Mediterranean family, don't you know... Btw, if you're interested in being considered for a little project I want to do with several local single cooks and Judith Jones when she comes to town, email us at with COOKING FOR ONE in the subject line. We might pick you!


Woodbridge, Va.: I once had a Bloody Mary with Old Bay seasoning. It was great.

Joe Yonan: Yep, this is so ubiquitous it has become almost classic, to put Old Bay in a Bloody Mary. Works beautifully.


Frederick Md.: I'm a bit surprised that there was nothing said in the food section today about the end of Gourmet! I'm still in total shock and very, very sad. It's almost like a good friend passed away very suddenly. As so many others I grew up with Gourmet and have been getting it and looking forward to getting it every month for most of my life. The time's truly are a changin'.

Bonnie Benwick: It's mostly a matter of timing. Jane Black posted something on Gourmet on our blog first thing Monday (the day we close the section), and readers commented in full. We've got a brief excerpt of that on Page 2 of today's section...there's always the wisdom of a few days to think about things. What else might you want to read about it, at this point? There seems to be a distinct split between those who will miss it and those who thought it's time had come.

Joe Yonan: Jane also contributed to the piece in the Style section on Tuesday. Did you see that one? I think this obviously is yet another piece of evidence that we need a DAILY food section. Don't you all agree?


Boston:Can you freeze plums? I'm tired of making jam...

Joe Yonan: Sure you can. I never tire of making jam myself, so haven't done this, but some say the best way is to freeze them in a light sugar syrup to prevent freezer burn, oxidation, etc. Check out these instructions and give them a whirl.

Bonnie Benwick: Or saute them a la this way, cool and freeze, if you'd like them on the savory side.


Los Angeles: I rarely cooked from Gourmet, but I did love the articles--it's always a joy to read something written by people who clearly love their subject.

Is there a good alternative? Are there other food magazines that demonstrate that same love of food and appreciation for the work needed to create the final results?

Jane Black: I think Saveur comes the closest. I really enjoy the magazine but it's definitely not as political or "newsy" as Gourmet. There's also the Art of Eating, a small quarterly, that is wonderful, though it's not for everyone.

Anyone else have good substitutes?


Cabbage and the Single Lady: Hi Free Range Folks,

Just wanted to share a weekend success story- Molly Stevens's braised cabbage recipe is WONDERFUL! I had some savoy cabbage dying a slow death in my crisper, and this was the perfect way to use it up.(sadly, I do not find tiny savoy cabbages around here) The leftover are great (maybe even better than the 1st day). I had it as a side dish for mujaddarah one day, topped it with a poached egg for brunch the next day, and repeated that meal for a fast dinner. Might try this out with some brussel sprouts sometime....

(The entire cookbook is great, but paraphrased recipe can be found here:

As Jacques Pepin would say, happy cooking!

Joe Yonan: Thanks! Good to know. Jim Dunlap of SnowBear said he was cultivating small cabbage varieties, so you should check out his stuff at the markets.

Bonnie Benwick: Love her, love that book. Try the oven-braised potatoes.


Joe Yonan: An addendum to my story on small produce today: For those who want to buy SnowBear's great stuff, Jim Dunlap sells those tiny butternut squashes and more at Bloomingdale on Sundays and also at Ashburn, Cascades and Lovettsville markets. (Possibly more, but I can't reach him at the moment to verify.) And McCleaf, where I bought the amazing Little Lopes, is at Pikesville, Potomac, Vienna, 14th and U, Bloomingdale and more.


Baby Shower, Va.: It would be great to get your thoughts on a baby shower menu for 10-12 people. I want to have a fruit and cheese tray with dip plus artichoke dip for apps/snacks. Chicken salad croissants with a rice salad as a side. I plan to have cake for dessert and do a non-alcoholic cocktail. Can you suggest another main course and side? Hot or cold is fine. I want to avoid a deli meat tray or anything really saucy like lasagna. This won't be a seated lunch so fingerfoods and things that can be eaten with just a fork/spoon are best. Thanks for your help!

Jane Black: Sounds like you need some vegetables. A quiche, like this green quiche is a good vehicle. Or you could make another good sandwich. I love David Hagedorn's upscale grilled cheese with champagne grapes and red onion. Chatters, other ideas?


Arlington, Va., Spaghetti Squash: I picked my first one of the season at the farmer's Market this past weekend. The other night, I baked it with some garlic and olive oil and now have the 'spaghetti' ready for a quick meal tonight. Usually, I'll add some veggies, perhaps some black or garbanzo beans, and some basil to make a nice one dish meal. But I'm looking for some inspiration for something a bit different- any ideas?

Leigh Lambert: You could fry up some potato cubes with curry, yogurt and mint and mix it in for something with a totally un-Italian feel.


Chinatown: Help free rangers! I'm coming down with a sore throat (hopefully not a cold), but I'm scheduled to fly internationally on Monday. What food/drink remedies are there to help rid me of this?

Jason Wilson: I find that bourbon helps. Or rye.

Bonnie Benwick: No surprise there! My dad used it put that in a little honey for us.


Washington, DC: My favorite thing to do with Old Bay couldn't be easier. Throw some shrimp, in their shells, in the center of a square of foil. Sprinkle LIBERALLY with Old Bay - a lot will remain on the shells so use much more than you would if they were shelled. Maybe a squeeze of lemon or a dollop of butter if you're feeling fancy. Wrap up the foil and throw them on the grill or in a hot oven. Check every few minutes until they are done. Serve outside with a bowl for shells and a lot of paper towels.

Jane Black: Old Bay and shrimp are a match. Cooking in foil is also so great. Such easy cleanup.


Adams Morgan, D.C.: I'm pretty much In Love with David Chang. While I adore H Mart, I don't have a car so I don't get out to the states that often. Is anyone familiar with the selection of ingredients at the Hana Japanese market on U st? Or know of another metro-accessible (bus too!) Asian market or other resource that would have the selection of ingredients that would allow me to cook from the Momofuku cookbook? Also will the cookbook have recipes from the Milk Bar? Thanks!

Joe Yonan: I just sent a reader there who emailed us about Japanese markets nearby, with the caveat that I haven't been there. So please be our Hana scout and report back. (It's on my list to try, too, but my list is growing too fast!) I'd suggest that you consider good old Zipcar for stocking-up trips such as to H Mart, which is hard to beat. But there are two Japanese markets in Bethesda (both walking distance from the Bethesda Metro) that you might try: Daruma and Hinata, both of which also have great carryout food. (You might as well fortify while you shop, eh? Especially if it was a haul getting there.)

Jane Black: The book has just two milk bar recipes: the cereal panna cotta with avocado and, I quote, a "chocolate hazelnut thing" that I am jonesing to make myself. There's also the fried apple pie with miso butterscotch and other moving parts.

On the savory side, this weekend, I am making the hangar steak with kimchee. Will report back. (So far, all we can tell is that the kimchee is very stinky.)


Washington, DC : Thanks for the ginger-scallion noodle and sauce recipe - - Finally, a use for the big multi-pack of ramen noodles I bought before being told to cut down on salt (salt being the main ingredient in the seasoning packets).

A couple of questions:

If one were to use Bragg's Liquid Amino instead of the usukuchi, how much ought one to use?

Can some other noodle, such as angel hair pasta, be used in lieu of ramen noodles (once I use up my ramen supply)?

Is the sauce also tasty with, say, chicken breasts?


Bonnie Benwick: Ha. Who knew David Chang would provide help with big-box cooking?

You could use the same amount of Bragg's, but you won't get the same salty hit that would be delivered by the usukuchi. (Sounds like you're doing with less sodium these days, so maybe you won't notice the difference.)

Because the Ginger Scallion Sauce isn't really that saucy, I'd recommend a ricke stick noodle that might hold up a bit better than angel hair. If you wanted to use the sauce with chicken, I'd cut boneless skinless meat into bite-size pieces.


I'll be honest: I do not like Old Bay at all - perhaps because I grew up in a different area and we didn't use it. I find it overpowers the great natural flavor, especially when used on shrimp and crab.

Jane Black: You are allowed to feel that way. (We won't tell the fanatics where you live.)


I love Cook's Illustrated for their: return to the basics and that they are honest about things like price of the equipment and ingredients.

I'm using on of the recipes for our Turkey this Thanksgiving - it would have never crossed my mind to ice the turkey breast before cooking to get more even cooking, but after watching them I'm excited to try.

Bonnie Benwick: You wouldn't be angling for that giveaway book, would you? Those Cook's folks are always experimenting. Before you commit to your holiday recipe, keep us in mind. The first of our two Thanksgiving issues is Nov. 18.

Yikes. So close. Let the turkey talk commence.


Squash-ful, Va.: Hi all -

I am about to receive several sweet dumpling squashes in my CSA box tomorrow and have no idea how to use them. Can I substitute these for Acorn Squash in recipes or do you have recipe suggestions? I would really love to get some savory ideas that stuff the squash whole as a pretty presentation. This is just for me and my husband so I would love it if the recipe suggestions were for 4 servings or less (so I can easily adjust the ingredients).

Also, what is meant by a small squash (size/weight) versus a large one for acorn and others? Thank you!!!!!

Joe Yonan: I played around with some stuffed-squash possibilities when developing the recipes for my Cooking for One column today, but then went in a different direction, a risotto. As for the dumpling squashes, you sure could sub them for acorns, as they're about the same size. I'd suggest that you look at the Stuffed Eggplant recipe from today and apply the same principal to the squash: Bake it first until tender (although with the squash, you'd cut in half and de-seed before roasting), then follow the remaining instructions for scooping out all but a border of flesh, mixing with the meat etc. and putting it back in and cooking some more. It would be easy to do with two squash to serve two people.

Or, you could try

this recipe

I just ran into online. Looks pretty good.


"Will Miss Gourmet" Camp: Just a comment, if you will allow. My husband and I have subscribed since we were married. While we might not use the recipes for as much day-to-day cooking, it was a "go-to" publication for special occasions - Thanksgiving, Christmas cookies, special parties with friends. We will greatly miss its approach, philosophy, and substance. We also subscribe to Saveur and enjoy it greatly, but we will miss Gourmet and are grateful its recipes will live on in our family traditions.

Jane Black: Yes, it was, as Guardian writer Jay Rayner put it, a habit. I for one am sad -- more than I imagined I would be when I heard the rumors. There's a lot of talent at the magazine. I found the writing stimulating and the recipes and photos a guilty pleasure.


Indianapolis: Hey guys, submitting early because of a doctor's appointment.

I went apple picking this weekend and brought back six lovely Jubilee Fiji Apples (about 3 pounds). The problem? I have no idea what to do with them. I want to make some dessert, but other than apple pie, I'm clueless. I'm willing to spend a couple hours on them, but not all day. Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: You know, this recipe from chef Peter Smith was something he did as part of a Chef's Challenge (read: cook for 4 for cheap) menu. But it's lovely as is, fairly unadorned. And it takes minutes. (Okay, may I'd throw some crushed toasted hazelnuts on there...only because I love them.)


New Brighton, Minn.: Hi, thanks for all the great food ideas I've gotten from this chat. Anyway, I just bought an ice cream maker (I know, not very seasonal, although I did make a cinnamon spice ice cream) and am looking forward to custom-creating ice cream for my loved ones. For instance, my grandfather's favorite pie is sour cream raisin. Do you think I can make the custard that is the basis for the pie, and then just put it through the ice cream maker? Otherwise I might try to make it as a frozen yogurt to get a similar tang.

Joe Yonan: Can you share with us that custard recipe? That would help us evaluate. Generally, French-style ice cream is indeed a custard base.

Bonnie Benwick: Seems like it might work, especially if the custard process reads similar to the basic custard recipe found in David Lebovitz's "The Perfect Scoop."


Never used Old Bay: I'm intrigued by Old Bay now. I never used it before, but I love making seafood. I wanted to know if you need to season with salt still when you use it, or is there salt in it?

Bonnie Benwick: No extra salt needed.


San Francisco: Hi,

Thanks for taking my question.

I just moved into a studio that doesn't have a full kitchen (just fridge and microwave). I'm thinking about getting a small electronic grill or skillet, so that I'm not forced to dine out or eat processed food all the time. Any suggestions on which appliance and what would be easy to make on it...

Bonnie Benwick: Sounds like you'd be in business with an electric skillet (usually you can find them in thrift stores) and a modern, whiz-bang toaster oven. Chatters?


Silver Spring, Md.: Thanks for the Moroccan chickpea recipe. I am always looking for healthy, vegetarian recipes that my meat-eating husband can enjoy and have meat on the side.

Bonnie Benwick: You're welcome. (Here's that link, chatters, if you haven't checked out the recipe yet.) We've had good feedback about the Nourish column, where you can find a healthful recipe each week. Stephanie Witt Sedgwick's having fun with apples this month, did you notice? Four consecutive recipes that all call for our fave fall fruit.


Lothian, Md.: Your column on Old Bay mentioned adding to chicken, egg or potato salads -- don't forget tuna salad -- I always thought I made good tuna until I tasted it made with Old Bay and now wouldn't think of leaving it out.

Jane Black: Good tip. Makes sense I suppose. I wonder about salmon salad too.


Bethesda, Md.: I wanted to thank you all for your for Cooking for One column. I love to cook- but I definitely have a hard time motivating myself when its just for me.. I'm a great cook for holidays or dinner parties- but when its just me... I let myself get away with a bowl of cereal or tuna salad or something (or takeout).

I'm trying to not let speed be the reason that I eat unhealthily by cooking a few things on Sunday to be ready when I get home for dinner. Its still a challenge but I'm getting better. Thanks!

Joe Yonan: I'm so glad you're liking it. Keep the faith!


Cooking for 1: I too enjoy the cooking for one columns and liked the reference to 'treasures' today. I've been cleaning out my 'treasure' filled freezer over the past few weeks and am about ready to start filling it up again. The Moroccan-style braised lamb you mentioned today sounds interesting, can you post the recipe?

Joe Yonan: That's in Judith's new book. Hmm .. maybe you're a giveaway candidate? If you don't "win," you should buy it!


Cooking for One Follow-up...: Hi! I was the chatter who asked last week (or two weeks ago, sorry I forget!) about good cooking for one cookbooks. I have definitely used your suggestions and the suggestions offered by the chatters and expanded my repertoire. Just wanted to say thanks and thanks for today's cooking for one post.

Bonnie Benwick: A popular topic indeed. Why, Editor Joe ought to write a book....hey! He's doing that.


Washington, D.C.: As a young professional with salary slightly above poverty, I always find it hard to find recipes that are not only made for one person but are also fairly cheap and healthy. Any ideas or advice?

Joe Yonan: I try to keep health and cost in mind in the recipes for the CF1 column. We analyze nutrition, and often when we're running those numbers, we make changes and even retest to get things into more favorable territory. I also try to suggest things that make use of leftovers (such as new uses for the previous day's Chinese takeout rice). But I'd say generally, you should be looking at such staples as brown rice, made-from-scratch black and other beans, sweet potatoes and, the single cook's best friend, eggs. (You might look up my Tacos de Huevos recipe, which uses both eggs AND sweet potatoes.)

Jane Black: I have to give a shout-out to Joe's leftover rice recipes. I use them all the time. Great way to save money and eat well.


Petworth: Hey food folks -

I'm planning a Halloween party. The main theme will be Day of the Dead, so the food will be Mexican. There will also be some Gorey-style decor and some black lights mixed in, so it's kind of mixed up that way.

Anyhow, one thing I haven't figured out yet is punch. I want a tasty punch that will cope well with dry ice to make it look cool and that will go with the food.

In the past I have done margarita punch, with tequila, blue curacao, and limeade. It is a fabulous color and looks great with dry ice in it. But I want something new.

Is there a good mojito punch maybe? Other thoughts?

Jason Wilson: I'd recommend another tequila punch, called the Santa Maria. Btw, you don't have to make your own falernum. There's a brand on the market called John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum (from Barbados) that you can find at liquor stores like Ace Beverage.

One thing: I'm not sure what you mean by "cope well with dry ice". I would not recommend adding dry ice to the punch.

Oh yeah, one more cocktail that would fit both the Mexican and Gory themes might be the


, a bloody mary variation that calls for tequila.


Kim-chee: I can understand if you think so, but growing up eating it as a staple, I don't think it is. Give it a try. It's very delicious and healthy too. I've eaten it with steak although have not cooked the two together.

Jane Black: Honestly, I think it's the salted shrimp in the recipe. It's potent stuff. But don't get me wrong. Stinky was meant as a compliment.


Silver Spring, Md.: I loved the article on Old Bay! As a lifelong resident of MD and DC, I grew up with Old Bay. It is a requirement for crabcakes and spiced shrimp. I also love it on french fries. Your article gave me some new uses for Old Bay that I had not thought of before. I also think that Old Bay cheesecake might be pretty good if you made it a savory cheesecake to spread on crackers. I may just have to try it!

Jane Black: Please, please report back on the cheesecake. I'm not hopeful but I am curious!


Fairfax, Va.: A few weeks ago I cooked Rosh Hashannah dinner for the first time in my adult life and used my mom's recipe for brisket. The meat and the mushrooms worked perfectly but the potatoes didn't even come close to cooking all the way through. I followed my mom's instructions to slice them into quarters and add them into the liquid in the pan during the last hour of cooking, but they were still practically raw. So now I'm wondering if the problem was the kind of potatoes I used. My mom always uses the standard white baking variety but I used red potatoes because I prefer them. Do different potatoes cook differently, even if they are roughly the same size and weight, and if so, how do I know how to adjust accordingly if I substitute one for another?

Bonnie Benwick: Waxy potatoes like your red ones may take longer to roast due to their lower moisture content. If those are the ones you like, next time try parboiling (partially cooking) them before you add them to the roasting pan.


Clifton, Va.: Cooks Illustrated I find the mag very pretentious and elitist like we are superior to you we found away to cut the cooking time for coq au vin down to 2 hrs etc. Well sorry then it isn't coq au vin.

I find their two TV shows snarky and pretentious. I detect a superiority typical of elitist liberal dems.

Sorry no bourbon for coming down with a sore throat. Try properly chilled Pol Roger Winston Churchill or a 30yo single malt Scotch from the Highlands! has to be the highlands. The higher the distillery the better. No lowland or isle scotch please!

One should have a case of Winnie and a case good scotch on hand for the upcoming flu season.

Bonnie Benwick: Another country heard from.


Silver Spring: The H-Mart on upper Georgia Avenue near Randolph Road is accessible via subway and bus. Subway to Wheaton or Glenmont, then up or down Georgia on a zillion busses.

Have fun.

Joe Yonan: Fantastic. Thanks.


for a cold/flu: Hot water with 2 T each honey and lemon, this always makes me feel a lot better. Also, just mixing 1 T each of honey and lemon makes a great natural cough suppressant.

Bonnie Benwick: That's a good one.


Richmond, Va.: Greetings! If the weather holds up on Saturday, I'll be going to Charlottesville for some apple picking. I want to use some of my bounty to make dessert for a potluck where there'll be about 40 people.

I might try a recipe I found for apple pan pie, which is like an apple pie baked in a jellyroll pan and cut into squares. But I thought I'd ask you all if you have any ideas for an apple dessert that would feed a crowd.

Leigh Lambert: Try this Caramelized Apple Crumb Cake we published a little while ago. Very seasonal.

Bonnie Benwick: What a good suggestion. A killer cake. Bring copies of the recipe; you'll be asked for it.


Chicago: I have a couple questions all based on the same theme: pork loin.

I've recently been cooking a lot with pork tenderloin, and I saw my grocery store had some on sale, so I had my husband buy it. It wasn't a tenderloin, though. It was a half-cut loin, so it had a ton of fat on it, plus what looked to be tendons. I cut off all the fat and then went a little crazy and cut off all the tendony-looking stuff - am I supposed to do that or is it edible? I basically butchered the piece of meat to half its original size.

Also, we're looking at making my dad a dinner for his 50th birthday, and my brother says he's got a 9-pound pork loin he's probably never going to use. That's a lot bigger than any pork tenderloin I've ever seen, so I'm trying to figure out if the recipes I use for the tenderloins would likely work on this as well (basically, they all involve pouring some saucy stuff, like vinegar and salsa, over the loin and then roasting it for a bit in the oven.)

Oh, and as a sidenote, I tried the Pork Athens recipe from this year's tomato contest - loved it! It's actually one of the recipes I'm considering for my dad's birthday.

Bonnie Benwick: Well, the silver skin running along a pork tenderloin, as well as any excess fat, should definitely be trimmed.

As for a pork loin, I guess I'd trim the fat depending on how I was going to cook it. Boneless cuts have a layer of fat that often comes in handy when you're roasting in the oven -- the meat inside's pretty lean, and modern-day, regular grocery-store pork loin's not as flavorful as it used to be. Did you have a pork loin roast with bones? Those usually come with tenderloin muscles but not such a heavy fat layer on the outside. (I'm SO not a meat-head; this is my own shopper's observation.)

I'm not sure what your brother's got is a pork TENDERloin. I've never seen one that big. (Is it tapered?) If you've got a pork loin roast, try either the Roast Pork Loin or Roast Pork Loin With Apricot Plum Sauce recipes in our database.

And, finally, I'm so glad you liked that Pork Athens recipe. I tested it and was much impressed. I'd never pounded a tenderloin thin before, so it taught me a new trick/gave me new options for other applications.


Hot Sauce! Hot Sauce!: I have a question about ... hot sauce!

I ran out of tabasco sauce recently and am in the market to buy some new spicy sauce. Tabasco isn't my favorite; I once had a bottle of something that I think was called "Hot sauce" but was made with habanero peppers. It was a thicker sauce that you poured directly onto foods, rather than sprinkled in drops, as with tabasco.

I'm not sure of the other options out there. Do you guys recommend anything for steak and eggs, two dishes that I frequently like to liven up?

Also, I'm going to the Fairfax Fall Festival this Saturday. I've often seen booths where people sell their own selection of hot sauces that aren't available in the grocery store. Have you had a good experience going that route, or should I stick to the aisles of my local grocer for hot sauce options?

Leigh Lambert: I fell in love with Marie Sharp's hot sauce when I went to Belize this spring. I was delighted to find it is widely distributed. There is a range of heat to choose from, depending on the use and your taste.

The advantage to finding sauces from smaller companies at festivals is that they will usually let you sample them. If you want to sample some brands and aren't planning on going to a trade show, try eating at California Tortilla or Rockland's. Both offer dozens to taste.


Alexandria, Va.: I'm a real fan of red bell peppers and was disappointed to see them hit the dirty dozen list for pesticides. I roast them on the stove top and remove the skins. After that, it's time for soup, salad, or sauce. Will removing the skins eliminate much of the danger?


Bonnie Benwick: If you're worried about the residues, buy organically grown bell peppers -- or grow your own! Problem averted.

You can remove a lot of the residue by washing compromised fruits and vegetables, but most likely not all traces.


Garden Herbs: On the subject of preserving garden herbs, we've also had an abundance. One thing I do is make breadcrumbs in the food processor and add the basil, parsley, marjoram, etc. through the Cuisinart toward the end of each batch. Those breadcrumbs will later be used for stuffed peppers, stuffed artichokes, meatloaf, and cutlets.

Joe Yonan: That's truly inspired. Do you freeze the breadcrumbs then? That's where all my freshly made ones are. I love this idea.


Preserving herbs over winter... freeze!: After seeing freeze-dried herbs (mint, basil, etc.-- thin leaves) in the UK supermarket freezer sections, I tried my own version... it works!

Rinse, spin, pat dry... put in a freezer bag WITH AIR IN THE BAG. Let freeze. Then gently let the air out, and keep frozen. Take a bit and crumble wherever you need it... use as you would fresh, rather than dried.

The herb will melt immediately when you touch it, (and will darken like cooked basil/mint anyway)... but it's better than dried and much better than having to add oils (that will NOT like being frozen) that you really don't want.

Try it (you'll know within a day if you don't like the results)

And PS it's fast, simple, and it works!

Joe Yonan: This is so much easier-sounding than what I usually do, so many thanks. My only difficulty, and I know I've said this before, is that my freezer is too darned crammed full. I need to spend a week or two eating it down.


Minneapolis, Minn.: Hi Crew! So... I'm having a good friend and her fiancee over for dinner tomorrow and I'm stumped on a dessert. I'm making Short Ribs Braised in Barolo, Pumpkin Orzo, and a Salad... Do you (or the gallery) have any suggestions for a good dessert that would pair nicely with my menu? I'm leaning towards chocolate, if that's helpful.

Bonnie Benwick: Not sure why, but I'm thinking pears instead of chocolate (and that is rare for me). What about Pomegranate-Poached Pears With Vanilla Creme or Pear Cranberry Hazelnut Crumble?


hot sauce: A BF's Mom was a pureblood Cajun and she always used Crystal hot sauce from Louisianna.

Bonnie Benwick: I'm partial to Crystal myself.


Boulder, CO: Put me in the can't live without Old Bay and won't really miss Gourmet camps.

As a Maryland native, I feel like Old Bay is part of my DNA and add it to everything (and posted some recipe suggestions on the blog comment section). I'm just thankful I can purchase it in this land locked state. I'm always introducing people to the deliciousness that is Old Bay.

I subscribed to Gourmet for a year about 2 years ago and really wasn't a fan of the layout or style of the magazine. The recipes were great but I found I would only read the magazine to see what recipes were included. I'm really liking Saveur.

Jane Black: I was surprised in the comments on our blog how many people felt that way about Gourmet. You are not alone. (I liked to read it but didn't cook from it that often.)

As for Old Bay, keep the faith.


For Clifton: So it's pretentious to cut down a recipe to make it take less time? But the only thing for a sore throat is 30 year old single malt Scotch from the highlands!

Bonnie Benwick: Ha!


Washington, D.C. : This question's for Jason - I am a beer head in mourning as have recently discovered I'm one of those celiac (no gluten types). But, my question is this - and please don't laugh. I am going to Vegas this weekend with some friends and while I don't plan to imbibe to excess, I know that there will be opportunities to have a cocktail. I have found that liquor goes straight to my head, but am looking for something more exciting than a vodka cut with club soda, or with sugary juices that give me a hangover. Any low-alcohol ideas? And, yes, I'm totally fine with just not drinking as much if my question seems slightly indulgent :) Thanks!

Jason Wilson: I don't know a whole lot about which spirits are gluten free and which aren't. But there are plenty of lower-proof options, especially cocktails that call for wines, particularly sparkling or fortified wines. (Drinking wine might also be an option?) Many popular Italian spirits are low proof, and something like a Campari and soda, or an Aperol Spritz would be something you could nurse during weekend. As far as heavier cocktails, I guess you'd surely want to avoid anything that might use artificial mixers (who knows what's in those dayglo things). Tequila I think is gluten free (as long as its 100 percent agave). So you could sip a tequila neat, or have a margarita if you were certain they used fresh juice. Someone told me cider was a good gluten-free choice, so maybe that or a cocktail that calls for Calvados or applejack would work, too.

Maybe others might make a suggestion?


Chipotle peppers: I made something the other night that called for Chipotle peppers (the canned ones). I only used a little and put the extra in a small tupperware and stuck it in the fridge. How long will it stay?

Bonnie Benwick: It'll be okay in the fridge for several weeks, reall. Best to label and freeze it. At least more stores are carrying the smaller cans of chipotle these days.


Bethesda, Md.: I am very sad about the death of Gourmet- (take Bon Apetit instead, Please!) I really loved the articles (tomato farmers in Florida and the like) and just the joy and knowledge with which they wrote about food. I once tried to tell Ruth Reichel how much I loved her work, but ended up a blathering mess.. I can make do with my Saveur subscription..but Gourmet- you will be missed.

Jane Black: Hear hear.

Bonnie Benwick: Maybe the editors will take a victory lap around the country, say, the way Dancing With the Stars also-rans do.


Am I the only one who noticed...: The irony of the chatter that called Cooks magazine elitist and then went on about only scotch will do, and at that only certain? As a scotch drinker, I appreciate quality and regionality, but gee, hypocritical much?

Bonnie Benwick: You are not.


Dry ice: We love to have punch with dry ice for Halloween, but didn't want the ice IN the punch. We use a big plastic cauldron with a pie plate at the bottom to hold the ice and put the punch in a large metal bowl on top. Then you can pour warm water into the cauldron (around the punch bowl) and get the ice steamy. One note, if you have a metal ladle, don't leave it in the punch or it will freeze to the bottom of the bowl! We also got a really great, spooky moan from the bowl one year as it contracted unevenly. So cool!

Jason Wilson: Ok! I figured it wasn't in the punch, but I wanted to make sure!


Richmond, Va.: Can you link to the older story you did about the evolution of Cook's Illustrated? It was a great article, everyone here would love it. I came to admire the editor more to learn how he started with a vision and very little money. I benefit most from reading all the mistakes they made while perfecting the recipe. That really helps me learn new techniques.

Jane Black: Now which article are you talking about? I did one for Boston Magazine in the last year. Is this what you mean? Hope that helps.


State College, Pa.: I have a large bunch of black, seedless grapes that don't taste good so we don't want to eat them, but I hate to toss them. Any ideas/recipes? Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: Wash them and throw them in the blender. Puree. Use as a sauce for grilled fish.


Alexandria, Va.: I just want to say that my husband loves my Cook's Illustrated cookbooks because he is a very literal kind of guy and they give him exactly the right amount of instruction to be able to cook. Lots of other recipe books skip steps or explanations that a cook is "supposed" to know. Outside of those books, I can't get him to cook :). That said, they also give a great baseline for a lot of recipes and their explanations of what works and what doesn't helps me when I want to make variations of their dishes.

Jane Black: Yes, CI attracts a certain kind of cook. And they serve them well. Which is why Cooks Illustrated is in no danger of disappearing.


Food magazines: I get quite a few food magazines, but mostly just flip through them. They seem so much the same these days. Gourmet was one I always actually sat down to read. That, and Cook's Illustrated. I love CI's approach. It's just so completely different from anything else. I'll give Saveur a try based on your comments.

Just so you know, some of the best recipes I've collected through the years have come from newspapers!

Jane Black: Thanks for the kind words. (Credit goes to the lovely Bonnie Benwick for the recipes.) We appreciate the support.


San Francisco studio Apt must have: I've been living in a hotel for a while now and the best thing I ever did was buy a great toaster oven. The basics of heating up pizza and making grilled cheese are covered plus I can roast pork, veggie & chicken... make meatloaf, bake brownies/cookies...It's a MUST HAVE.

Bonnie Benwick: More equip recs for the fridge/microwave chatter.


Sore throat remedies: Two remedies that I grew up with are:

1. Gargling warm salt water a few times a day.

2. Drinking a warm steeped brew of honey, lemon juice, ginger slices and lots of cloves. Strain and serve- so delicious, I sometimes make it even when I'm not sick!

Hope the traveler feels better soon!

Jane Black: I vote for option 2 because it's delicious. Gargling with salt water is good for you but I kind of dread it.


Silver Spring, Md.: With fall weather coming I would love so oxtail stew. However Whole Foods seems to only have frozen and I want to be very careful buying oxtails (lets out most supermarkets) Any suggestions on where I can get them?

Jane Black: I emailed the folks at FreshFarm markets who said the following farmers have oxtails from time to time: Eco-Friendly Foods, Country Pleasures and Gunpowder Bison. (Check FreshFarm Web site to see which market is more convienent for you.) Also, as this is not the most popular item they sell, it might be worth calling the farms to check before you head out.


Arlington, Va.: I like turkey at Thanksgiving (like most everyone else) but we have a very small group -- maybe 4 at most. I have taken to cooking a split 1/2 turkey. (Wegmen's sells 1/2 turkeys, or you can buy a whole one, split it, and freeze the other 1/2.) I brine it, season it, and put on indirect heat in my Weber grills. Smoky, delicious.

Joe Yonan: I love that they sell a half-turkey. What a fantastic idea.


RE: I detect a superiority typical of elitist liberal dems. : That whole post has to be a joke.

Bonnie Benwick: Oh, not necessarily.


NEW to old bay too: If you are new to OLD BAY. One word...EASY. Don't overdo it.

Jane Black: Right on.


Fried Chicken?: What's the secret to being able to cook without burning the coating? I've tried oil at 325. Covered. Not covered. Everything. My chicken always cooks too fast on the outside and needs to be finished in the oven.

Bonnie Benwick: What kind of oil are you using? and coating? If you're at 325 you shouldn't have probs, because the oil temp tends to go down closer to 305 with a full batch frying. Or at least that's what the Cook's Illustrated folks have discovered.


Hot sauce: Try Sriracha (hot chili sauce) by Huy Fong. Has a loyal following and certainly perks things up.

Leigh Lambert: Oh, yeah. I forgot about it. That is a good all-purpose kick on the sweeter side.


Daily food section? I'd get the Post again!: I dropped the Post several years ago, but I'd get it again--or better yet for all--subscribe online for a daily (interactive)food section.

When I first moved down here in 1990, a coworker told me that reading the Wednesday Post food section was like having a subscription to Gourmet. She was right.

The WaPo online recipe guide is already my go-to source for lots of things. I would honestly pay a reasonable fee to have access to videos, online help and in-depth articles.

Bonnie Benwick: Bless you! We'll forward that sentiment to the Offices Upstairs.


Arlington, Va S: I frequently read the cooking for one column and think have noticed a slight change in the tone, which I appreciate. I think there used to be a more "woe is me, I'm eating alone" intro to the column and now it is more often a celebration of shopping/cooking small. I like that. I don't cook the recipes that often since I think I like leftovers more than most, but still find the recipes good for ideas.

Anyhow, I don't entertain often, and when I do it's usually pretty casual and generally do a good job with the meal with one exception, dessert. I don't really like dessert that much, mostly because they're usually too sweet for me. I mostly opt for a cheese course instead but do make my own ice cream sometime (usually I give 3/4 to the neighbors and am still eating the remainder a month later since I am so infrequently in the mood). Any ideas for desserts that I might like that would go over well with guests? I do like roasted flavors, like dark chocolate and also fruits. My mom used to make a sponge cake with thickly sliced apples throughout it that was great but we can't find the recipe anymore...

Bonnie Benwick: Interesting. Joe's definitely not that kind of solo eater/cook. The man goes home and whips up amazing stuff, for a party of one.

I think roasted or poached fruit might be a good bet for your palate. We have tons of suitable recipes in our


Go forth and find gold.


Minneapolis, MN (Dessert Searcher): Hi Again, I think I will make the Pear/Cranberry Crumble- thanks for the suggestion! Perfect fall dessert. My follow-up is whether I could make this in individual ramekins? Should I just cut down the cooking time/watch them closely? Also, do you think I could make these ahead of time (even this evening) and cook when we're eating dinner so they're nice and toasty? Thanks again!

Bonnie Benwick: You can certainly do ramekins, but I'd up the liquid/moisture quotient a bit. Absolutely make them ahead.


Ballston, Va.: I always preferred Food And Wine to Gourmet. I never had a a problem following the recipes in F&W. Their recent issue may force me to end my subscription after 20+ years since they again have completely ignored Va wines.

Best thing for a sore throat threatening to appear is to sip from a Mason jar containing fine untaxed VA corn liquor. Has to be VA and from either Highland or Bath counties!

Jason Wilson: Yes! The Mason jar of corn liquor gets my vote.

As for the reader who suggested "properly chilling" a 30-year-old Highland scotch...No. Maybe a drop or two of water, but never an ice cube in a nice single malt.


Tidewater, Va.: My grandmother steamed shrimp with pickling spices, does not overwhelm the delicate flavor like super salty spicy Old Bay.

Jane Black: Huh. Good idea. I also like cold, pickled shrimp.


Pentagon, Va.: Chilled vodka is cough suppressant used by our Special Forces before a mission.

Jason Wilson: Wow. I almost don't know what to say about that, except to express my admiration.

Jane Black: I'm going to second that. Wow.


the thing about Cooks Illustrated is: It's worth reading the entire article even if you'll never make that recipe: you learn about techniques, the science of cooking, best buys on tools and best tasting food items. I always write down what brand of peanut butter, cheese, etc. wins their taste tests.

Jane Black: It is true. You benefit even if you don't cook it. Funny thing is, the ones I cook I usually just read the recipe. But I'll read the other articles. Odd...


cure a cold: I use Hot and Sour Soup

Leigh Lambert: I couldn't agree more. It's my favorite comfort soup.


For the Baby Shower Menu...: about stuffing miniature zucchinis? Depending on how large they are, you can't stuff them with too much, of course, but at the very least you can sprinkle a little fresh- grated parmesan on top after seasoning with salt, pepper, and paprika, and bake at 350 until just tender.

Jane Black: Cool idea. Thanks.


Washington, D.C. : Not a magazine, but sometimes has that same fun, newsy tone as Gourmet. Though, Gourmet hasn't been fun in awhile. A little preachy, and I'm on board! Though, I'm still sad and guilty for not keeping my subscription.

Jane Black: Truth is, the demise of Gourmet had more to do with ad sales and newsstand sales than subscriptions but yes, it's important to support publications you enjoy. (Like the Post!)

What I feel bad about is throwing away my old copies. I kept them for years and finally decided I needed to clear them out. Now, I regret it!


DC: I live near Hana market and love it. But it's not similar to H Mart in that it doesn't have a whole lot of produce or fresh meat/fish. The seafood that they do have is frozen, though there is a lot of variety in what they do have. I recommend Hana for hard to find staples (like Japanese rice, furakake, matcha, gyoza skins, aburaage etc.), Japanese snacks (katsura!) and soft drinks, and small trinkets. The owners are incredibly kind and willing to answer questions about anything you're not too familiar with.

Bonnie Benwick: Ah, thanks for the advice. Love our readers and chatters.


Maryland: I love Cooks Illustrated for what it is. I reach to them first when I am baking to read how they tested ratios and proportions. And frankly, none of my restaurant/bakery books have recipes for things like blueberry muffins!

I don't go to them first for bizarre trendy foods, but for what they do (and I don't think they ever claim to do otherwise) they do very well.

Jane Black: They don't do bizarrely trendy foods. Ever. That's their schtick. But for roast chicken or blueberry are set.


online subscription: Amen to that! I got a subscription recently to help support the Post, since I'm an avid online reader. But I could do without the daily influx of paper and I really only get to read the Food section and the comics on Sunday.

Jane Black: That is really sweet. Really. And I do know what you mean about the papers piling up. It can make you feel guilty. But seriously, thanks.

Bonnie Benwick: Piled up newspaper has SO many uses, tho!


I detect a superiority typical of elitist liberal dems: Sorry, I'm afraid we can't afford 30 year old scotch!

Jason Wilson: So is an ice cube in a single malt scotch versus no ice cube a political statement? Discuss?

Bonnie Benwick: If only we had another hour....


Dupont Circle, DC: Is the canned pumpkin shortage real? Any good substitutes? What about sweet potato?

Jane Black: I had heard it was a bad year for pumpkins but I didn't know it extended to the canned pumpkin world. Really? Sweet potatoes will work in lots of things but they are a bit sweeter so maybe cut the sugar a little bit?


McLean Va.: The really nice thing about Cook's Illustrated is that they don't use ingredients that are hard to find when I'm visiting family in Utah.

Just try finding arugula in the Smith's Grocery in Cedar City.

Jane Black: Isn't Obama making arugula a required vegetable though?



Washington, DC: I saute a lot and sometimes want to brown the food, but not a single one of my pans, including my beautifully seasoned cast iron pans, heats evenly, so there are always some unbrowned food or parts of food. Any suggestions, other than to spend a lot of time re-arranging the contents of the pan? Thanks for any suggestions.

Bonnie Benwick: What the heck are you cooking on? Methinks it's not the fault of your pans -- especially the lovely seasoned cast-iron ones.

Joe Yonan: I was going to say the exact same thing, but Bonnie's fingers are quicker. Cast iron is a beautiful conductor of heat, and it holds it/distributes it well, so it's very unusual for there to be cool/hot spots with cast iron.


Alexandria, Va.: My husband has been begging me to make fried pickles at home, now that our neighborhood restaurant (Rustico) kicked them from the menu. We love the ones at Del Merei, which I found in the recipe search. But didn't you also print the recipe from Chef Geoff's at some point? I can't find it online and hoped you could dig it up!

Bonnie Benwick: Hmm, I don't see a Chef Geoff pickle recipe in our archives. But I can vouch for the Del Merei one.


Curry leaves?: I need curry leaves for a recipe. (I don't think there's any real substitute, right?) Where's the best place to find them in mid-MoCo?

Bonnie Benwick: The Indian Super Market in Silver Spring (11405 Classical Lane; 301-589-8417) has them. No substitute that I know of!


Washington, D.C.: Where can I buy fondant around D.C./Bethesda? Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: Sur La Table on Wisconsin Ave. NW carries it (202-237-0375). If you can travel a bit farther, you'll be able to buy it by the bucket at Little Bitts Shop in Wheaton (301-933-2733).


since I'm a Cook's Illustrated fan: I can say: CI is for cooking geeks, Gourmet is (was) for cooking romantics.

Jane Black: Well said.


Silver Spring, Md.: I had a wonderful beverage called a Cranberry Bog at legal Seafoods last week. It is made with cranberry puree. Can I simply puree fresh cranberries or is there something else to be added? Thanks so much - love the chats. And I just want to share a find - Blood Orange bitters. Make a delicious champagne cocktail.

Jane Black: I'm betting that they added a little sugar to the cranberry puree. They can be very tart. (Indeed, it's possible that Legal Seafood buys pre-made cranberry puree which is surely sweetened.) Also, if you make it at home, strain the puree through a sieve to get out all the skins.


Washington, DC: Brussel Sprouts, I love them. I was so happy to get them on the stalk at the Farmers Market on 8th and D, NW, last Thursday. They were small sprouts. I took them home, roasted them and they looked beautiful but they were AWFULLY bitter. I have cooked the larger ones this way all the time and they are delicious. Why would the baby ones on the stalk have been so bitter?

Leigh Lambert: Maybe it is the season, because I got some recently that tasted strongly of horseradish.


Gluten in liquor: Most vodka is now grain-based and is not gluten-free. There's an expensive Polish brand that is still made from potatoes -- name is something like Luksusova. Rum is OK, too. Most others aren't, though I think Jason is correct about tequila.

Jason Wilson: Yes, I would think a lot of vodkas would be off limits. But there are some very good potato vodkas, though, like Chopin, Karlsson's Gold, and Cold River.


Bonnie Benwick: Well, you've scooped out our roasted flesh and combined it with a tasty filling, so you know what that means. Thanks much for a lively discussion today. "The Pleasures of Cooking for One" goes to the "Cooking for 1" chatter with the treasure-filled freezer, and the "Best Recipes" book goes to the chatter whose husband enjoys cooking the "literal" way.

Remember to send your mailing info to Next week, look for a mess o' Make It Freeze It Take It recipes.


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