Free Range on Food: Dinner party, 'Top Chef' analysis, Thanksgiving (already!), food saver bags, primal cuts

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The Food Section
of the Washington Post
Wednesday, October 28, 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

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Joe Yonan: Greetings, and welcome to Free Range! We've got a lot of ground to cover today, so I'm going to get right to it.

We have special guest Stephanie Sedgwick (that's Ms. Nourish to you -- she's the author of our fab weekly healthful recipe) in the room, so ask us anything that's on your mind, and we'll hop to it.

For our favorite posts, we have these giveaway books: "Seafood Alla Siciliana" by Toni Lydecker, source of today's DinMin recipe; and "Top Chef: The Quickfire Cookbook," for one of you Bravo fans. (Who thinks we might have a BroVo finale? I do.) For contention for the latter, give me your snappiest analysis of the season this year, and the book could be yours.

Your time starts now!

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Veal-less: Even when I was a carnivorous child I wouldn't consume veal or lamb. Now as a vegetarian grownup, I obviously wouldn't, despite the "more humane" approach written about today. I find it interesting that male calves are a useless "byproduct" of the milk industry. There was no mention of the potential ills of the milk industry and that perhaps we consume far more milk than even remotely necessary in this country. There would be less "byproduct" if we weren't such gluttons. Nevertheless, I came here to plug a vegetarian product I recently came across and find delicious--despite it being a "faux" meat: Field Roast's artisanal smoked apple sage veggie sausages. So delicious I'd eat them even if I were not a vegetarian!

Jane Black: Yes, I knew that "useless byproduct" would be called into question. I think the issue isn't how much dairy we use but how low the price has to be in order to make it worth a farmer's while. If people didn't expect to buy meat or milk for so little, it might be different.

I respect your decision to be vegetarian. For my part, I try to avoid fake anything -- meat, sugar, you name it. But for the vegetarians out there, here's a recommendation. Let us know what you think.

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Clifton, Va.: I don't have a problem with beef or pork raised humanely. However, there is a big difference in taste, tenderness and mouth feel with veal raised humanely. I hate it and will stick with milk-fed veal confined in cages for its life span.

Folks need to rise up and stop this move to a no meat eating society. See the editorial in a recent issue of the NYT. Remember meat eaters have more guns than vegan and Greens and we know how to use them!

Joe Yonan: It's not about not eating meat. It's about eating humanely raised meat. So put your gun down, Clifton.

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Bethesda, Md.: My husband is convinced that Starbucks coffee brewed from the actual store has more caffeine that the Starbucks we brew at home. Do you think that is possible? He swears when we make coffee at home it never gives him the jolt he needs!!! What you think?

Joe Yonan: Sure, it's possible, if you're not making it at the same strength they do. The rule of thumb is 2 tablespoons of coffee for every 6 ounces of water.

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Richmond, Va.: This time of year, I start to feel a primal urge to bake and store food. Do you have any general guidelines for freezing baked goods? For example, I have a really good recipe for a apricot and nut studded quick bread that has a swirl of cream cheese (flavored with orange juice and held together by an egg, if I recall correctly), and I would love to make a few loaves of that, but I'm not sure if something with a cream cheese swirl would freeze well. Also, for holiday cookies, is it better to freeze the unbaked cookies and then bake them, or freeze the baked cookies? Thank you!

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: If the cream cheese swirl is baked in, it will freeze perfectly. Cheesecakes of any kind are great options if you need to bake and freeze ahead.

I prefer to freeze cookie doughs and bake off as needed. I form the dough into logs wrapped with wax paper. Once frozen, I wrap tightly with plastic wrap. You can freeze baked cookies-bar cookies do best because it easy to pack them tightly and reduce an excess air space.

Honestly, though, fresh baked is always better.

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Washington, D.C.: From Domenica's blog this week on the cheese soup: "The soup relies on russet potato and cauliflower rather than flour to thicken it..." Could I sub red-skinned potatoes easily? The soup looks fantastic, but I have the red-skinned potatoes on hand. If so, any idea as to the amount? And would leaving the skins on change the consistency or cause separation? I'm getting into making soup (to go with my new found love of baking breads) and this one looks fantastic. Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: Domenica, our Say Cheese columnist online, says sure you can use two average-size red-skinned potatoes instead of the one russet. But peel, peel, peel them. You don't want to be chewing this velvety soup. Here's the link to her blog with that Three-Cheddar and Vegetable Soup.

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Not-margaritaville...: Have a full bottle of Rose's Lime Juice. Just not seeing many margaritas or other mixed drinks in immediate future. I'm thinking that maybe I could turn the Rose's into a lime curd but haven't been able to find any kind of recipe utilizing Rose's that doesn't involve cocktails or maybe a tablespoon or two in a marinade. Do I need to let my dream of curds go a-whey?

Thanks

Joe Yonan: Yes, you do. Rose's would make a terrible lime curd, I think. The beauty of citrus curds is that combination of the tart fresh juice with just enough sugar to sweeten, set against the richness of the egg yolks and butter. Pure heaven. A Rose's version would be a disappointment. I have to confess, I'm not exactly the biggest fan of Rose's -- perhaps it's all those terrible margaritas and mojitos I've had made with it. I'm a big believer in using fresh juices in cocktails.

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Warrenton, Va.: I have a recipe for three mustard sauce that calls for "green herb mustard". I've searched area grocers, to no avail, even the internet. Any ideas where I could find or how to make? Thanks!

Joe Yonan: Think this might be it? Found it on the Chef's Warehouse site.

Or you could blend in chopped herbs with Dijon.

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Rockville, Md.: Hi. Last weekend I had my first taste of a "rustic fruit tart." Holy smokes--it was awesome. Rather than buy one from Traders Joe's (where I got the taste), I'd like to try to make one. Do you have a recipe you can suggest? Can you use any pie crust dough for the crust or is it different? Can you make them in individual serving sizes? Thanks!

Jane Black: So wait, you want to buy the pie crust or make it? If you're wiling to make it, try this recipe for a lovely apple crunch galette. (Or I like cream cheese doughs for galettes.)

If you want to buy dough, just roll it out and place the fruit in the center. Fold the dough over the edge of the fruit, leaving some visible in the middle. Brush the dough with an egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until golden brown.

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Sunny Arizona: Hello foodies and foodsters! I made a giant batch of vegetable fried rice with onions, ginger, carrots, green beans, and chayote. Added salt and pepper and a squirt of lemon. So yummy! I just love seeing all the different colors. I'll leave a bowl for each of you here to sample.

Bonnie Benwick: Seems kind, but actually so cruel....

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Rockville, Md.: Hello!

Since funds are a little tight this year I am thinking about doing some kind of food gift for some in-laws, friends, and co-workers for holiday gifts. I was thinking doing some kind of creative assortment of cupcakes. Do you have any delicious and out-of-the-ordinary cupcake recipes?

OR do you have any other ideas for food gifts for the holidays?

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: I'm a big homemade gift-giver and I have one rule: Whatever I give does not have to be immediately consumed. People are drowning in food at the holidays so I give something that will still be good after the New Year. I've done jams, pancake mixes and the like but my favorite is a bourbon-glazed pecan recipe I came up with a few years ago. I put the finished nuts in an old-fashioned plastic bag that closes with a tie and then I put the bag in a holiday tins. The nuts can be eaten right away or two weeks later.(I like to think the nuts are so good that they're gone that night!)

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question about meat stock and demi-glace recipes: Can I use a crockpot instead of the oven for simmering? If so, low or high setting? Thank you.

Bonnie Benwick: Does your slow cooker provide a temperature reading? We didn't test it that way, so I'm hesitant to say.

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Courthouse: I'd like to buy some of the locally grown apples I keep seeing at the farmer's market but I only like Granny Smith and they don't seem to have those. Can you recommend a local variety that would be similar? Thank you.

Jane Black: So you like tart apples. Me too. I have recently discovered the variety called gold rush. Very tart and crunchy. I also like pink ladies. The best thing for you to do though is to ask the farmer at the market. They'll be able to guide you to the most similar they have. Plus they'll let you taste. Which is always the best way for you to figure out what you like.

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Thanksgiving already: I've gotten some rsvp's already for Thanksgiving. I'm hoping to get your help with a good recipe or some tips on stuffing. Mine is generally too bland and the texture is too mushy. I'll admit to using store-bought bread cubes and a fairly standard recipe for herbed stuffing. I've paged through recipes and ones with sausage, apples, cherries or cornbread are intriguing. I'd love some advice on the bread to use, in the bird vs. in a casserole, how to keep tradition but increase flavor, etc. Thanks!

Jane Black: I usually leave these questions to Bonnie. (She knows everything.) But here's my two cents. I change the stuffing I do from year to year. But usually buy the cheapest baguette they have at Safeway (usually 99 cents), roughly chop it and dry it in the oven at about 250 degrees for an hour. Last year, I did lots of herbs (sage, rosemary and thyme), dried cherries and sausage. The year before I did a whole bunch of wild mushrooms, thyme, and toasted hazelnuts. When you've added your flavors, whisk an egg or two (depends how much stuffing you are making),salt and pepper, and mix it in. This will help the stuffing hold together. I bake mine in casserole pans outside the turkey.

Hope that helps.

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Dinner party tonight, help!: Already making roasted pork tenderloin, german potato salad, wild rice pilaf, and steamed green beans. Decided today I need a salad for some color. I made a roasted shallot vinaigrette and was thinking of pairing with mixed greens, goat cheese, candied pecans and dried cranberries. I was going to add pears but I used them in my pear frangipane tart. Any thoughts or other ideas? Thanks!

Jane Black: Sounds perfect. Can I come?

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Washington, DC: The cider-glazed root vegetables sounds delicious. Could be a contender for my Thanksgiving root vegetable dish I want to make. One quandary--where do I find fresh apple cider? This may seem like a silly question, but I've had trouble, and maybe I'm not looking in the right place. In the market I see apple juice in cans, sparkling apple cider in glass bottles, and in the liquor store, "hard" apple cider in beer bottles. Are any of these what you are referring to? The recipe says "fresh" apple cider, and all of those products, in addition to not sounding quite like a match, are all bottled or canned, so can't be fresh. Please advise.

washingtonpost.com: Apple Cider-Glazed Root Vegetables

Bonnie Benwick: You know, Stephanie didn't specify "fresh" -- she's pretty easy-going that way. We added that. During the fall, freshly pressed apple cider's sold at farmers markets in plastic jugs and in the produce department of grocery stores (in the refrigerated case). That's what we're talking about it here. Use some for this recipe and warm up the rest in a pot on the stove; add a few spices and drink in the season.

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Animal welfare: I didn't realize I was killing calves by drinking milk. Sigh. I've given up meat but I'm not sure I can give up dairy. Is there a way to enjoy milk, cheese, etc. without making animals suffer?

Jane Black: I hear you. I could not give up dairy. I love it. I think it depends on your definition of suffering. (PETA would say, for example, that you are making cows suffer just by milking them.)

For me, the best thing to do is to buy from a reputable source. Trickling Springs has great milk; Blue Ridge Dairy has good cheese and yogurt. And no, you don't only have to shop at farmers markets. When I buy milk at the supermarket, I usually choose Organic Valley; they're a coop of family farmers.

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Washington, DC: Hello everyone, I was at the Penn Quarter Farmers Market last week and I saw a big, beautiful bunch of tatsoi (at least that is what the name sounded like). I wanted to buy it because it was so pretty and I did not. How do you cook it or do you eat it raw?

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: It is pretty-I had some last year in my CSA (community-supported agriculture)basket. I threw it into green salads for a little bite and used in stir-fries like baby spinach. It adds a nice touch mixed with other greens but I wouldn't center a dish around it. The flavor is so distinctive, too much of it takes over everything else.

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Madison, Wis.: Thank you for your article on humanely raised veal. I've shied away from eating veal my whole life, but would gladly buy it from a farmer I trusted. Unfortunately, I've never seen it for sale at the farmer's markets here, but I'll be keeping my eye out now. Your article mentioned that male calves of dairy cows are not suitable for beef production - why is that, and why are they suitable for veal?

Completely unrelated, but several months, maybe a year ago, someone asked a question about a banana cake and you said you were testing a recipe for an upcoming book (I think) that was supposedly amazing. Did you ever publish that recipe or share what book it came from? I've been scoping out cake recipes for my office's upcoming holiday bake-off and would love to try it. Thanks!

Jane Black: Jersey bulls calves aren't typically used for meat production because of their small frame - simply put, they are very small and do not have the ability to carry much muscle, making it economically unfeasible. They also have a genetic tendency to produce yellow fat vs. white - which is not visually appealing to today's to consumer.

When market conditions are right, Holstein bull calves are often fed out for beef. When properly fed, Holstein steers will easily grade high choice and even prime. The problem is that they require a lot of grain to get them to grade out - so today's expensive commodity prices make it economically challenging for producers to feed them out for beef.

As for farmers markets, I'd say, talk to your farmer. The two that sell around here told me they had a really hard time when they started. (At one market, someone protested in front of the stand holding a fox pelt and asking "What's the difference?") So they may think they won't be welcomed. You can probably buy Strauss veal at a local store, though, since they are based in Wisconsin.

Leigh Lambert: About the banana cake: I think the one you are thinking of is Lisa Yockelson's creation. It is a recipe still under lock and key, but worth the wait. It will be in the collection of recipes being published by John Wiley & Sons in 2011 under the title "BakingStyle."

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Arlington, Va.: What's the difference between baking something and baking off something? Between stirring and stirring up something? I realize the chat is on the fly but increasingly in the Post I am seeing the use of unnecessary prepositions. Always surprises me when people want to add unnecessary words, especially in newspapers where I would think the trend was towards shorter writing.

Joe Yonan: You're obviously out to stir up trouble.

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Chciago, IL: Ooh, speaking of Top Chef, I've been wanting to ask you guys something my husband and I have been talking about.

I'm a big fan of Jennifer, but I admit that she comes off as rather... harsh. She seems like she expects a lot out of anyone who works with her, but then obviously she expects a lot out of herself. I've really come to respect her, but I have to admit that when the season first started, we both thought she was a not-so-nice word that rhymes with witch.

We both agree that wasn't a fair assessment, because there have been guys on the show who were the same who we really liked. And the other women chefs we've liked have tended to be the really nice ones, like Stephanie and Carla. But Jennifer seems to be way above any of them. Do you think there's a problem for women chefs who have strong wills in the industry? Or are they more respected and it's just the way TV portrays them that made it take a few episodes for us to warm to Jennifer?

And I really am rooting for her - love the brothers, but come on! I don't think I've seen any contestant push themselves as much as she does!

Joe Yonan: I think the restaurant industry is like the rest of the world, in which women are unfairly expected to sugar-coat their strength in a way that men are not. I know what you mean about Jennifer -- my nickname for her is Saucy because she always like to make complex sauces for her dishes, but also because she was so flirty with Mike V. (nickname: BroVo West, as opposed to Bryan V., BroVo East). Now, the other part of your question -- the editing by Bravo -- is surely a factor, absolutely. Keep in mind that they're trying to create characters.

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Bethesda, Md.: You cannot bake stuffing in a casserole. That is dressing, not stuffing (or in PA we call what goes in the bird filling).

As to Rose's, I favor a gimlet on a warm night, and was at the Hyatt in Toronto recently and asked for one. The bartender made it with fresh lime juice and simple syrup. Fantastic. Threw my Rose's away.

As to veal, Marcella Hazan's veal stew with tomatoes and peas will convert even vegans (add a pinch of red pepper flakes and a drop or two of cognac to her inestimable recipe)/

Joe Yonan: A trifecta of very definitive answers.

Bonnie Benwick: Marcella's Osso Buco is a marvel as well. Wish we'd tested it, instead of the one we tried (and did not publish).

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Philadelphia, Pa.: re: Top Chef. This season more than any other, the top 4 has seemed like a foregone conclusion - Jen, Kevin, and the Volts - so that makes the competition a little less interesting. BUT I would much rather the best chefs make it to the finale rather than getting all those Shocking! Elimination! Episodes! that Bravo likes to spring on us, resulting in the early elimination of great chefs like Jamie and Jeff last season, leaving us with a less talented finale bunch and nothing but ugly sniping and the threat of bald-on-bald violence in the last stage of the competition.

Also, if you need a nice open-ended conversation-maker, "which Voltaggio?" does nicely.

Joe Yonan: I agree, it has seemed clear this time. But I think I'd disagree that the eliminations of chefs such as Jamie and Jeff were done to shock. Those judges spend hours deliberating; I really believe they have good reason for getting rid of people, and can't say I've disagreed that much week to week, since the beginning.

So ... which Votaggio?

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Stuffing/dressing: I'd love to try a new dressing for thanksgiving, but everyone loves the one I already make that I'd probably be in trouble if I didn't make it--corn bread, sausage, sage, dried cranberries, onion and celery. I'm already craving it.

Bonnie Benwick: Make 2 of them -- half portions of yours and a new one (I just gave a link to my favorite one in another answer). At my house, I can add to the Thanksgiving parade o' dishes but Not Taketh Away.

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Columbia, Md.: I have some dangerously overweight friends. I love entertaining them in my home and so I generally cook/buy all the unhealthy snacks they like. I'd like to change that. Any suggestions for healthy and vegetarian snacks for guests?

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Wow, I'm not sure a visit is the time to try to "reform" your friends. They're hardly going to fight over the celery sticks because you failed to supply chips and dip.

When I have friends stay, I try and provide what they like for meals while also maintaining my style of cooking. I serve the same snacks I always do, planned to provide something good to eat without causing an immediate heart attack. If the food's good no one complains because I've used olive oil instead of butter. No one even notices.

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: I'm thinking you'll want suggestions...how about blanched asparagus spears wrapped with prosciutto? That's a favorite of mine. I also like to make my own pita chips. You split the pitas, cut into chip-size pieces, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt (believe me you'll never use as much salt as is in commercial chips, never!), pepper, smear with roasted garlic, spice up with smoked paprika, chile powder, season with Parmesan-you get the idea. Bake at 300 to 325 degrees until crisp and lightly browned. Another trick is to have fruit that's all ready to eat. Grapes already cut into bunches, strawberries that have hulled, pineapple cut and ready to go with toothpicks-I find people just pick them up and eat.

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Arlington, Va S: For the chatter that asked about food gifts, I haven't done this a lot for Christmas, but when I make mustard or ketchup, I usually give away a couple of spare jars. Mustard is really easy to make and is usually appreciated. The Ketchup isn't much harder though it's more time consuming. For both, they're special recipes - horseradish (from my yard) beer mustard and a hot pepper (habanero or chipotle - not as spicy as you'd think) ketchup. I don't bother canning since I know they won't be out of the fridge long, but you could if you needed to.

I've also considered giving gift jars of herbs from my garden that I've dried (spearmint, oregano, sage), but haven't done it yet.

Joe Yonan: You must have a ton of herbs that you can spare giving some away. If you end up overloaded with those beautiful dried-herb jars, you know where to find us...

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State College, Pa.: The Wegmans by me carries primal cuts (ie. full loins, ribeyes, etc), and I'm considering starting to purchase some meat that way and break it down myself. I obviously need to consider how to store, say, 20 steaks at a time. Do you have reviews or recommendations on any of the vacuum sealer contraptions on the market?

Bonnie Benwick: Food Saver vacuum sealer works well, but a slight hassle in terms of counter space and ordering extra bags. (I've seen them demo'ed at Costco -- if the store sells the bags separately, I take back the part about ordering bags.) The hand-held things or smaller models did not do so well.

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Richmond, Va.: My family and I had an interesting and animated discussion re: faux products (specifically meats and alcohol) with some of the family thinking that it's great there are options for those who will not ingest these things and the others believing that if you don't ingest them for ethical reasons, eating something that simulates the taste is really no better. For purposes of keeping everyone on topic, medical necessity, we all agreed, was not the same as ethical choice. In other words, if you don't eat pork because it was a living creature at one point, eating a faux bacon is no better really - you like the TASTE of the pig no matter the spin (can you tell which side of the fence I fall on). However, if you cannot eat meat because of health reasons (think heart disease, etc.), having these options, no matter how far short they fall, is a nice option if you're having a real hankering. Is this a can of worms only a close family should haggle over or would your team be willing to chime in? Thanks.

Jane Black: We will definitely *stir up* some trouble if we do but what the hell. I'm with you. If you don't eat meat, why try to fake it? (But as I said earlier, I also feel that way about sugar and butter and all kinds of foods. I'd rather have a small piece of pie made with real butter and sugar then a lot of some low-fat fake.)

I also see what you mean about health conditions, though I'm not aware of any diet that absolutely prohibits meat. It might restrict it, sure. But then those people should, in my humble opinion, try to enjoy meat when they have it and eat other good foods they like the rest of the time, rather than trying to approximate meat all the time.

At the end of the day though, that's just my opinion. What you eat is a personal decision. I'd like people to want to eat like I do but a lot of people don't care and have different taste. For proof, see today's debate about the Rose's lime juice.

Joe Yonan: Some of these issues were brought up in this piece Andrea Sachs wrote on the subject last year.

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Alexandria, Va.: The person that writes in as "Clifton, VA" is a troll and posts derogatory comments on nearly every chat, every day. I wish WaPo columnists would finally wise up to this and show a little discretion in deciding what comments to post.

Joe Yonan: Are you absolutely sure there's only one?

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Washington, DC: Rose's works fine in margaritas...after a couple rounds made with fresh lime and no one cares anymore.

Jane Black: My dad only likes gimlets with Rose's. I think he likes the added sweetness. So yes, it's a question of taste.

Joe Yonan: Yep, everything tastes OK after a few margaritas, it's true -- but the fresh ones taste even better! But I'm not too much of a stickler to suggest an improvement on my favorite frozen-margarita recipe, which calls for Minute Maid frozen limeade.

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fish!: The seared tuna recipe looks great -- and completely manageable on a busy weeknight. Any chance the Pistachio-Crusted Swordfish Rolls with Escarole Filling recipe will make an appearance in the Post anytime soon? I'm always on the lookout for something quick, new and different to do with fish.

washingtonpost.com: Seared Tuna With Sweet-Sour Onions

Bonnie Benwick: Probably not -- what a tease I was to bring it up. Toni Lydecker would be happy for you to buy the book, though. Or maybe you can insert a clever response here and WIN it today!

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Bonnie Benwick: About mushy stuffing -- I have some theories and my favorite recipe for you to try. If your stuffing has lots of moisture-filled vegetables, that doesn't help. If the texture's mushy going in, you'd want to bake it in as shallow a baking dish as possible. My longtime go-to recipe is Hazelnut and Sausage Stuffing, which never, ever gets mushy. The nuts, drained/crumbled sausage and toasted hazelnuts keep things perfect. Eggs bind it just enough to hold together, but a handful of it does not resemble a wet softball. It is a perfect stuffing. I've thrown down the gauntlet.

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TC analysis: It's the most producer-happy line-up yet - chefly skills including the insanely talented coupled with middling mediocrity & hot brothers! We are appalled, we are entranced - welcome to Vegas!

The Dream Team: The Fighting Brothers Voltaggio of the Dead-Eyed Yum;

Kris Kringle; and Jen "I'm never more dangerous than when I'm crying" Carroll

Bringing up the rear: the Troll, Mike "Hey, he isn't that bad in comparison" Isabella, Robin "I'll make you hate me even when you want to feel sorry for me" Levanthal

Along the way, more talented chefs were cut -sniff- Ashley and Hector . . . lesser talented chefs couldn't leave soon enough -waves to Jessie, Eve and Ash- . . . and some chefs thankfully were prevented from torturing us with their presence for long -slowly backs away from Jen and her Satan's Seitan-

The season is winding down - the producers figured out that Kevin is the ringer, so we are being treated to as much drama as can be wrung out of the Volts & Jen. Look to see one Volt get chopped for the final 3, so they can ramp up drama & let him come back as sous-chef to his brother. High stakes Quickfire! Whichever of the Volts lives through working together gets to be the competing finalist!

Jen will bravely cry her way through an impeccable meal, while Mike V runs out of gas when there are no people left alive to bully (sorry, Bryan - you were my favorite brother). . . leaving Kevin as this year's champion! As it should be.

Joe Yonan: Beautiful. I will quibble only about your Hector assessment. But otherwise, you definitely do not need to pack your knives, and please don't go. If you're on Twitter, btw, you must follow me at @wapofoodlive, cause I'd love to see your take on the show as it airs.

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quick bread: Ohhh, would the poster from Richmond share the recipe for the apricot and nut studded quick bread? I tried googling key words but couldn't find a recipe. Sounds great.

Joe Yonan: Richmond? You still here?

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Jen: I'm worried about her. She seemed to melt down in the last few episodes and did really poorly. It's disheartening because, after Kevin, she's totally my favorite.

Joe Yonan: I bet she'll pull it together. We'll see tonight.

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Coffee Bra, ND: It's also possible that the store Starbucks and home coffee are, in fact, different bean combinations. The Dunkin' Donuts made at the store is different than the one they sell.

Joe Yonan: Of course -- Starbucks sells all sorts of blends, and makes coffee with lots of different ones, too. But different blends shouldn't make much difference in caffeine, not the way the brewing proportions would.

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Which Voltaggio?: Bryan for conversation, respect, maturity, and... just about everything else. Michael to cook dinner for me and Bryan.

Joe Yonan: Nice.

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Bluemont, Va.: Would you care to share the recipe for the bourbon glazed pecans?

Bonnie Benwick: Sugar-Glazed Bourbon Pecans

Makes 4 cups

Adapted from a recipe for Sherry and Sugar Glazed Pecans in "Party Nuts," by Sally Sampson, the flavor of these nuts is reminiscent of a perfect pecan pie.

You will need a large sheet pan for these nuts, one that measures about 18-by-13-inches. If you don't have one this size use two smaller pans. From Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.

1 large egg white

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons bourbon

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 pound (4 cups) raw (untoasted) pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line a large (18-by-13-inch) sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy. Add the bourbon, sugar, salt, cinnamon and ginger, whisking until blended, Add the pecans and stir to coat the nuts thoroughly with the sugar and spice mix. Transfer to the baking dish and spread into a single layer.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. The nuts will appear dry when done. Have ready another pan lined with parchment. Remove the nuts from the oven. Using a metal spatula, transfer the nuts to the clean parchment. Set aside to cool. When cool, pack in tins until ready to eat.

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Food saver bags: Target sells them individually.

Bonnie Benwick: I officially rescind the bag statement, then.

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DC re Halloween: I'm curious -- What will each of you food writers be offering the trick-or-treaters who show up at your doors on Halloween? Little bags of store-bought candy? Home-baked cookies? Recipe books?

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: I bought two jumbo pans of Ferrara-Pan mini-boxes; fireballs, lemon heads, red hots, sour apple candies and more. The candy dates me but I don't care. I'll hide the red hots on the bottom and hope they're left.

Joe Yonan: I love me some Lemonheads. I haven't bought any candy yet, but I'd be tempted to go for one of my favorites: Sugar Daddies, Now/Laters, good old Jolly Ranchers.

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Egg white salad: Does Ms. Nourish have a healthy recipe for egg white salad? Trader Joe's makes a good one that is only 100 calories for a 6oz tub. The problem is they only sell it in 6 oz tubs, which gets expensive (not to mention the guilt over all that packaging). Also, is there a way to "hard boil" liquid egg whites to save time from peeling all the hard boiled eggs?

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Gee, I've got to tell you I'm not a leave out the egg yolks person. If I want to cut down on the cholesterol and fat, I cut out every other egg yolk. This works great for omelettes and scrambled eggs. Other than that, there are so many good non-egg things to eat, why bother ruining a classic like egg salad?

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humanely raised veal: ....is a great idea. No worse than humanely raised beef (and so much better than the traditional way of raising veal calves).

Used to be a large animal vet (advancing age has relegated me to small animals in the last 3 years), and consider this a much needed step forward.

As for the difference in taste--people can acclimate to taste differences. Think about tilapia--few people had eaten it some years back, and now it is mainstream.

Thanks food staff, for writing this article. R

Jane Black: Thank you for sending this in. You are right on taste. It's a case of getting used to it and cooking it differently than you did before.

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Bonnie's stuffing: Bonnie--I don't see the link to your favorite stuffing recipe, would you mind putting it up again?

Bonnie Benwick: Here you go.

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Food Saver: I have this Food Saver.

It's been redesigned to be more of an upright model, so it doesn't take near as much counter space as the older models. I love mine and use it all the time. You can find the bags just about anywhere. I've gotten mine at Target, Kohls, Wal-Mart, and also QVC.

Joe Yonan: Or you can read our own evaluation of vacuum sealers right here, no subscription required.

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Adams Morgan: I've been juicing a lot lately and have wonderful pulp that I end up throwing away in the trash. Is there some kind of community composting in the District that I can donate my food scraps to. I hate "wasting" such good composting fuel. BTW, I live in an apt and don't have access to a yard/garden.

Thanks!

Jane Black: I agree. You just wish you could do something with it. In San Francisco, they collect composting stuff with the garbage. But here, nothing as far as I know. Chatters? Anyone have any thoughts?

Joe Yonan: Gardening guru Adrian Higgins suggests that if you want to reduce the size of that compost, you could manage it yourself under your sink if you went with "vermicomposting," where worms do the work.

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Rice: Looking for some easy fix-ups for rice. We occasionally fall back on the Uncle Ben's seasoned products, but they are SO SALTY. Suggestions as to what I can add to rice to make it more flavorful (I'd eat brown rice with butter, S&P, but my husband wants a little more jazz). Of course, there are occasions where the sauce for the accompanying entree will suffice...

Jane Black: A few ideas. You can cook the rice in stock, rather than water, to get more flavor. You can also add some chopped vegetables. But the easiest thing to do is to add some spice. A store-bought herbes de provence is nice. Or I happen to have Michael Psilakis's new cookbook "How to Roast A Lamb" on my desk -- we'll write about him next week! -- and he has a Cretan spice mix that is perfect for rice.

Mix together 1 teaspoon each of cumin, fennel, and mustard seeds along with 3 cardamom pods and 10 peppercorns. Toast the spices in a 350 degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Cool, transfer to a spice grinder and grind to a powder.

This will make enough for a whole bunch of rice dishes.

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Annandale, Va.: My twelve-year-old son is very interested in food safety. I have been unable to explain to him why quiches and custard pies -- which contain milk and eggs -- must be refrigerated, but baked goods such as cakes, cookies, and muffins do not need to be refrigerated, even when they also contain milk and eggs. Can you help?

Bonnie Benwick: Wish I could channel Alton B. right now! I've got a call in to a proper food scientist at the U of Md, but basically the difference is that some types of foods are able to support microorganisms better than others -- and that's not a good thing.

Bacteria need moisture, protein and a fairly warm temperature to grow, so keeping an eggy custard pie or quiche at room temp for a long time is not indicated. Cakes and cookies have a lot of their moisture baked out of them (even moist cakes). And they contain sugar and some other ingredients that can act as microbial inhibitors.

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Cleveland: I got a kohlrabi head/bulb? in my CSA and I'm not sure what to do with it. Any ideas? It's larger than a baseball, smaller than a softball, if size matters.

Bonnie Benwick: Kohlrabi's great and firm crunch is perfect for salads, either paired with fennel, as in this recipe or with apple, like here.

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Re: Clifton: I'm convinced there are at least two Clifton posters. One who is obsessed with sheep herding and tries to work it into every chat they read. And another who hates us inside-the-beltway yuppies, but still reads the Post and the chats obsessively to tell us how much he or she hates us.

Joe Yonan: I think you're onto something.

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Roses Lime Juice: I've found that Rose's is a great way to keep my kids' sliced apples from browning in the lunch box. Because of the sweetness, they don't complain about the apples tasting funny and it doesn't take much to achieve the effect. But I agree that when it comes to lime flavor in cooking and baking, the real stuff is worth the effort.

Joe Yonan: Interesting!

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Arlington, Va.: I love Top Chef! And while the Voltaggio brothers are obvious favorites around these parts, I have to give a shout to Kevin (same hometown Atlanta, GA!). I am from the South and I love the way he always incorporates southern cooking/comfort food into his dishes.

Oft times southern cooking is not seen as very refined. But I love the way he incorporates the refinement and soul into his dishes!

Bonnie Benwick: But why couldn't he cook a lamb chop last week?

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Top Chef: I'm still watching this season but wondering if the whole show idea is getting too tired or "done" to continue much longer. It is bugging me this season that every time they show one brother getting feedback from the judges (good or bad), they always have to cut to the other brother to show the reaction. We get it, they're brothers, they're competitive, it's a new twist on your show. Get over it.

Also finding the Vegas tie-ins and changes in show structure not necessarily appealing. Is there sometimes no prize for a quickfire this time? Sometimes immunity - sometimes maybe cash, or even worse, a "chip" worth something, but seemingly sometimes nothing or something we miss. And my husband and I agreed that a challenge to pair dishes to shots/alcoholic drinks for a bachelor/bachelorette party is a terrible idea and probably no indication someone's cooking abilities.

That said, it is clear who this season's top chefs are and I am rooting for Jennifer. Yeah - go Philly!!

Jane Black: I am out on a limb here because I don't watch Top Chef consistently but in response to your comments about the brothers. Don't they do that with everything? I mean, Robin? If they hadn't set her up as the person everyone hates she would have been booted a long time ago. (Though I guess she did ok last week.)

To me, it seems like they decide on their themes early and stick to it, almost no matter what happens.

Am I too much of a cynic?

Joe Yonan: Don't forget, they edit the show after it's all said and done, so I'm sure they're looking for the narrative arcs in hindsight.

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Philly, Pa.: I am hosting a World Series watching party on Saturday and am looking for a good themed alcoholic drink. Any ideas? Go Phillies!

Jason Wilson: Glad you're a Phillies fan like I am -- I am ignoring all requests for Yankee-themed cocktails. Surprisingly, there is a dearth of baseball-related cocktails. But there are a couple of classic Philadelphia-based cocktails. There is the Philadelphian Cocktail, which is not bad -- 1 oz. port, 1 oz. applejack, and a 1/2 oz. of orange juice. And then there is the less successful, Philadelphia Filly, which is a mix of equal parts bourbon, creme de cacao, and cream -- which I'm not sure I would recommend. APO Lounge in Philadelphia has a Philly take on the Manhattan, the MidTown Village, a mix of rye, port, Italian amaro, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Or, you could always go in the red cocktail direction and do something with Campari or grenadine. Maybe rename one of my Negroni variations...call it a Ryan Howard? Go Phils!

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Stuffing: Fine Cooking has an excellent tool to build your own custom stuffing. You can choose your bread, flavorings, liquid, etc. It should be on their site.

washingtonpost.com: Create Your Own Bread Stuffing (Fine Cooking)

Bonnie Benwick: Love the Fine Cooking folk.

Joe Yonan: Love it. Wish we had thought of that!

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Washington DC: Every week, there are great-looking recipes posted in this discussion, often by readers (if that is the right word to use, given that we're writing as well as reading). Or sometimes you post links to recipes on other sites.

I'm wondering, can those recipes be accessed later by searching the recipe data-base? Or do I need to remember which week I saw a particular recipe, and then look up that discussion in the archives?

Either way, thank you for this weekly bounty!

Bonnie Benwick: If we have linked to a recipe that appeared in The Post, that means it's in our Recipe Finder database.

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Starter help: Having guest for a lasagna meal - salad and good bread for sides. Dessert no problem. What should I start with? I thought of crostini but that may be a bit too heavy. Should I just go with cheeses, olives and meat platter?

Which Volt brother? - Bryan - I'm from Frederick!

Jane Black: Cheese and meat and olives are always a good option. But I agree. Sometimes you want something more innovative. Add a few deviled eggs with salsa verde, just to mix it up?(I stole those from Two Amys. Yum.)

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Washington, DC: "...favorite frozen-margarita recipe, which calls for Minute Maid frozen limeade."

Please share. I think that sounds like a great idea.

Joe Yonan: This is the classic Tex-Mex recipe (right up there with the Velveeta/Ro-Tel tomato queso).

In a blender, combine:

1 large can frozen limeade

enough tequila to fill that can halfway to two-thirds, depending on how strong you want it

Splash of Cointreau

Juice of a couple of limes

Enough ice to fill the blender

Blend, and serve.

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re food gifts: Would Arlington please share some ketchup and mustard recipes with us? It's never even occurred to me to try to make my own.

Joe Yonan: Arlington, you there?

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re: Galette: Thanks for that recipe, but I was looking for something less apple-centric and more tart- shaped. Ideas?

Jane Black: I thought that's what you meant by rustic tart. A freeform one. We have a million tart recipes in the database. Take a look. You're sure to find one you like.

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Arlington, Va.: They are one and the same - read back on some past chats and you'll see numerous examples where they work in the sheep herding, and liberal/vegetarian/yuppy bashing into the same comments.

Joe Yonan: Thanks, but I think I've got about a million better things to do! ;-)

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fresh apple cider: Just an FYI -- the recipe online DOES specify fresh apple cider, which earlier you noted that it does not.

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Hey guys, relax about the apple cider. You could always use natural apple juice. It has a lot of the same flavors!

Bonnie Benwick: yes, it does specify. She said it wasn't necessary. My Deal.

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Arlington, Va S: I kinda wonder about who eats the fake meat products. I'm a vegetarian and used to occasionally buy the products to see how they were (or get veggie burgers for grilling). I never really liked the taste/texture of the stuff that tried to be like meat. The various veggie patties range from bleh to decent, but nothing is great.

Anyhow, having them in the fridge and living with a couple of guy roommates (all omnivores), they loved them. The guys didn't cook that well and it was a very quick and easy thing for them to make for dinner. Since the veggie burgers are usually frozen they didn't have to worry about spoilage like they would with cold cuts or ground meat and they could buy in bulk and shop less frequently. They ended up eating more of them then I ever did!

Jane Black: Very funny.

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Chicago: A question for Jason (or any other ideas welcome!)... Cold weather is on the way and I've been daydreaming lately about the fabulous hot buttered rum at the Tabard Inn. I've looked at a bunch of recipes online and there's a lot of variance, none jumped out at me - any suggestions? Or better yet, the recipe from the Tabard Inn? It would definitely bring some cheer to my Chicago winter!

Jason Wilson: Here's a hot buttered rum recipe that I really like. It's super easy and you can keep the batter in the fridge for up to a month.

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Bosque Farms, NM: Cook's Illustrated August 2009 did a review of vacuum sealers. Their favorite was very pricey but the second choice as well as best buy is: FoodSaver V2240 Vacuum Sealer Kit. I don't know if the article is still available unless you subscribe, but a library might have a copy of the magazine.

Bonnie Benwick: Thanks!

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Arlington, Va S: Joe - I'll share the mustard/ketchup recipes but the recipes are at home. Both are just variants from a couple of cookbooks I have. I'll send them to you in the next couple of days and you can post them where you see fit.

Joe Yonan: Thanks, Arlington -- the best thing would be for you to post them on next week's chat. Could you do that?

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NW Washington DC: Thank you, thank you for pointing out to readers that bouillon cubes and concentrate are almost entirely salt. It amazes me how much salt is in almost every packaged food, even things labeled as "healthy." It's really hard not to exceed the recommended daily limit of around 1 teaspoon of salt unless you make everything from scratch.

Bonnie Benwick: That said, our testers definitely noticed how UNsalty the Gastronomer's recipes are. So be advised when you use them in recipes....

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Pseudo-meat: I see nothing hypocritical about ethically-motivated vegetarians eating "fake meat." So someone doesn't want to kill/eat animals but still likes to taste something similar to meat... so what? That's fine by me.

-a meat-eater

Bonnie Benwick: I agree.

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DC re fish: Please list the herbs that go best with fish. I've had some disastrous results from experimenting. Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: Yikes. which kind of fish? Generally, go with either chervil, tarragon or dill.

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Bravo Top Chef: I have watched every episode and just love the show. I can't imagine the pressure they must be under daily. I would like to know what kitchen appliance (portable) you all could not live without if you could only have one (bread machine, rice cooker, Pressure cooker, etc).

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Easily, my pressure cooker. I can cut with a good knife, knead dough by hand and cook rice in a pot. I can't simulate the magic of a pressure cooker.

Joe Yonan: My Vita-Mix blender. No knife can replicate that.

Bonnie Benwick: Hmm. Can I stretch "appliance" to include pots n pans? My 33-year-old Le Creuset Dutch oven (the biggest one, in lime green. so back in style!). I use it every week. If not, then I guess it'd have to be the designated coffee/spice grinder. Using and storing whole spices opens up new worlds.

Leigh Lambert: I would agree with Joe that my Vita-Mix is my adored pet. I even purchased the travel case for "Thor" so I can take him on car trips and make morning smoothies in hotel rooms. In love much?

Jane Black: I love my microplane grater. But I really want a vita-mix.

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Organic Valley: Organic Valley is NOT the same as Horizon, who claims to have "organic" milk. I met a farmer who is part of Organic Valley at the Green Festival. Their cows graze on pasture as long as there's no snow on the ground. They eat hay in a barn during the winter. No hormones, no antibiotics. They treat their animals exactly the way we expect when you hear the word "farmer". It took my full restraint not to hug that wonderful man.

Jane Black: Did I miss something? Did someone say that it is the same as Horizon? Horizon has been at the center of a lot of controversy about their organic farming practices. That's why, when I can, I stick with Organic Valley at the supermarket.

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Top chef 2 cents: What I'm finding amazing about this season (and the comments on the chat) are how consistent everyone's views are - top four are Brian, Mike V., Kevin and Jen. Gone too soon were Ashley and Hector. Still there because Bravo producers crave drama are Robin and Mike Isabella. (Hey, I wanted to root for him, but I've had too many mixed experiences at Zaytinya.) It's clear there's a high caliber this season, and they've had great challenges. The pig-to-pinot, the 10 minute hand-off, possibly a vegan twist up next... I'm curious why they don't do more traditional market-basket challenges, where everyone has the same ingredients and the same time, and we can see what they come up with. I know it's done rather horribly on Food Network as Chopped, but it's a time-tested technique in the culinary world, isn't it? I'd watch, but I'd watch paint dry if Tom Colicchio were going to come around and critique it.

Joe Yonan: Thanks for this. My favorite challenges are the palate test, the mise en place relay and of course Restaurant Wars. Thankfully they let go of that stupid decorating aspect to RW this year.

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Philly drink!: The person with the World Series party should make a batch of Philly Fish House Punch. It's the closest thing we've got to a local drink. Many recipes online, just google.

Also, GO PHILS!

Jason Wilson: Fish House Punch is good. It's an old 18th century recipe -- from when Philadelphia was actually the capital of the young U.S. But it's very hard to recreate Fish House Punch now, mainly because peach brandy is just about impossible to find. Anybody have a good recipe?

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Food scraps: I read a tip recently where you keep a container (tipper used a paper milk carton) in the freezer and keep adding your food scraps until it's full. Then use them to make a stock.

Bonnie Benwick: Might make for a smelly freezer.

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Washington, DC: My partner doesn't like fish much, but I do, and since it's healthy, I want us to have it for dinner at least weekly. He was into my broiled salmon with garlic and rosemary for awhile, but got bored with it. Now I broil tilapia, finished for the last 40 seconds with a coating of garlic panko and squeeze lemon over it, which he likes a lot. When this runs its course, any suggestions for what I should try next? It needs to be quick (15-30 minutes) and lean (so no thick sauces please).

Bonnie Benwick: We're almost of time, but please look up the en papillote or baked in parcels type fish recipes in our database. There are many options flavorwise, and the fish always stays moist and delish.

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Joe Yonan: Well, we've reduced by half and will jellify as we cool, at which point you can remove any fat or impurities that have collected. That means we're done!

Thanks for all the great questions today, and to Stephanie and Jason for helping us answer them.

Now for the book winners. The "Top Chef" book goes to the analyst who said, "We are appalled, we are entranced - welcome to Vegas!" And "Seafood Alla Sicilina" goes to the chatter who shamelessly asked for the pistachio-crusted swordfish rolls recipe. Send your mailing information to us at food@washpost.com, and we'll get you your books.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating, reading and TV watching.

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