Free Range on Food: Atkins diet, Food52, freezing food, reseasoning waffle irons, fiddleheads, pantry stocking, baby shower menus, more

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The Food Section
of the Washington Post
Wednesday, April 28, 2010; 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.

A transcript of this week's chat follows.

Do you love the Food chat? Tell your friends about it!

Check out the archive of past discussions. Read the Food section blog All We Can Eat. Follow the Food section on Twitter at @WaPoFood.

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Joe Yonan: Greetings, all, and welcome to Free Range. What can we get you today: sparkling, still or iced? Wait -- I mean, recipes, tips or strategic advice? Or something else? Hope you enjoyed our section today, from Jane's piece on the Food52 vs. Cook's Illustrated recipe battle to David "Real Entertaining" Hagedorn's waistline-watching dinner party to Andreas "The Gastronomer" Viestad's take on raw food. Jane's on vacation this week, but we're expecting the fab duo behind Food52, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, to join us anytime now. And we have David and Andreas in the house to help answer what you throw our way.

For your trouble, you might just win a cookbook. The author of our favorite post will get one of two things: "Sarah Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners," source of today's DinMin recipe; or, if you have access to a Nintendo DS, "Let's Get Cooking" from America's Test Kitchen, which puts 300 recipes on your device.

Here we go!

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Rockville, MD: Question for David -- I read the Pimento Cheese recipe online, and it looks yummy. I'm a little puzzled, though; it says to process "half the pimentos" with the Gouda and other ingredients, but what do I do with the other half? Thanks!

washingtonpost.com: Pimento cheese

Bonnie Benwick: Give that fan a contract! Add the rest of the pimentos with the cheddar cheese. (Recipe's happy now.)

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A Big Thank You on Your Atkins Coverage: Thanks for David Hagedom's article about his so far successful attempt to do Atkins. He's already decided not to do it long-term because he doesn't think he can succeed, although he's seen great success in the initial Induction stage.

I'd like to say to David that I appreciate his honesty and wish him well. He's failed with other approaches and doesn't want to fail again on Atkins, so he's decided not to make it a lifestyle. I've tried that approach myself and, like David, found that if I didn't decide on Atkins as a lifestyle, I'd slip right back into my earlier, less healthy lifestyle.

He appears to be aware of this danger, having gone through this cycle himself. I hope he's read the newly released "A New Atkins for a New You" revised edition of the Atkins book and realizes that how much more flexible the plan has become, while still retaining its low-carb philosophy.

Three cheers to the Food section for running David's piece. It was a great read.

washingtonpost.com: Real Entertaining: I lose, my guests win. It's all good.

David Hagedorn: Thank-you for your support.

I think you hit upon an important point, and one that I tried to make as well. Diets do not work unless there is a commitment made to changing your lifestyle. That is, a lifelong commitment.

I was willing to adhere to the rigidity of Atkins' induction for the two weeks necessary. I mean, we can all do anything for two weeks, right? But I also knew that I would not have the resolve to continue eating that way in the long term.

I am a chef and a food writer and someone who has had a heart attack. I know how to eat healthfully. Still, I fall back into old ways. I guess I'm just a recidivist. I do understand that for me, refined sugar and starches are triggers and the reslts go directly to my middle.

I will read the new Atkins version as you suggest. I see that a good way to go for me is to avoid bad carbs and saturated fat and bring back into my diet some whole grains and certain fruits and dairy products.

But I make no promises that the occasional chocolate goodie won't make a cameo appearance from time to time.

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Middle of nowhere, Mass.: Dear Foodies,

I need your help, please! I am getting married over the Independence Day weekend. We'll be providing food for 25 to 100 people per meal, depending on the day, for the whole weekend.

Every Wednesday night until then I want to bake one thing, wrap it well in plastic and freezer paper, and freeze it.

My wonderful neighbor has volunteered unlimited space in her deep chest freezer.

So . . . what do you recommend I bake?

Any advice on cookies? Brownies? Quick breads? Techniques? Got any tried-and-true recipes for me?

Bonnie Benwick: I'd do little tart shells -- many of them, in different sizes. They are easy to fill the morning of the event, with savory and sweet things. And chocolate ganache. Freeze them in plastic containers, nestled in sheets of waxed paper or parchment paper. There's an old Martha Stewart paperback cookbook of hors d'oeurves that has the basic pastry recipe and lots of ideas for fillings. (The book is seriously '80s -- I think she is wearing either a Liberty or Laura Ashley dress).

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Seeking sugar solace: Hi all -- want to thank you for an especially exceptional Food section today. I now have way too many recipes to try out.

There is one in particular that caught my eye though... Historically speaking I do NOT bake, but with the recent purchase of a hand mixer and a springform pan it's something I'm trying to change. The chewy sugar cookie #2 recipe sounds like something a novice like myself could pull off (and my boyfriend will be in desperate need of a treat following 2 presentations today) but I'm curious about the coarse sugar. Is it necessary? It's the one thing I don't have in my pantry and may not be able to pick up on the way home. Will regular sugar do the trick? Any advice would be a huge help. Thanks!

washingtonpost.com: Chewy Sugar Cookies #2

Amanda Hesser: Hi -- the coarse sugar adds a little texture and crunch. Regular sugar is a perfectly good substitute.

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Burgers please: Husband and kids would like burgers tonight. We've got the beef, but I'd love some new ideas for toppings! Please?

Amanda Hesser: How about adding some chopped chorizo to the burger meat? Or you could crisp some pancetta instead of bacon. We like an herb mayo. - Amanda & Merrill

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No Food Section today: I did not get a Food Section in my home-delivered paper today :( It's my Wednesday-night after-dinner treat as my little one plays with his toys. I guess my evening will be filled with Thomas trains and Matchbox cars.

Joe Yonan: Are you sure you didn't? We were behind "Russia Now," an advertising section. (Sigh.)

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Palisades DC: Dear Mr. Hagedorn,

Based on my experience, I think your diet is doomed and that you are feckless about publishing recipes based on it to lure your readers on. I was on that diet for over a year and never lost more than 10 pounds. Even with high statin doses, it drove my cholesterol level off the charts.

Over the past year I have lost going on 25 pounds. There's no secret. Eat less and exercise more (and that means counting alcohol calories, too). Inevitably, that has meant adjusting to a new diet that does not have a lot of space in it for the calorie laden, fat laden foods Adkins incorporates into its diet. Because I have lost the weight gradually, I have a good idea of what and when I can eat and still maintain/lose weight. I am optimistic about getting to 30 pounds and keeping it off. And I don't feel starved.

I think you are fooling yourself--and your readers by going down this road. I for one will not be following your advice or your recipes while you go through this pointless exercise.

David Hagedorn: Dear Palisades,

I wrote a personal story about a personal struggle that I, and you too, apparently, have with food issues. What I find particularly distressing in your missive (and in a couple of others I received) is the complete lack of sensitivity and the ease with which you bandy about words/terms like "doomed," "feckless," "pointless" and "fooling yourself." This kind of exchange does not make people with food issues inclined to engage in the important conversation about proper diet and nutrition.

It is also clear to me that you missed the point of my piece and instead read what you chose to read to pick a fight. I clearly do NOT advocate the Atkins diet as a way of life. It was simply a jump-start to get myself back to the way of eating that you suggest. I also made it clear, or so I thought, that my cardiologist warned me about the pitfall of using the diet as an excuse for eating red meat and saturated fat. Only an idiot would think that it is OK to eat massive amounts of fat laden, calorie-laden foods.

I am a food writer, a chef and I've had a heart attack. I work out 3 times a week with a trainer and bicycle regularly. Of course I understand the point you make with condescension and sanctimony about eating less and exercising. Most people understand that and yet they fall back into bad ways of eating. That was the story I was telling.

Too bad you won't try the recipes. They are excellent; they just happen to be low in carbs. You are fooling yourself and doomed if you won't discover how delicious they are.

Joe Yonan: Hear, hear. I know a little of where you're coming from Palisades, as I'm a Weight Watcher myself. But really, it all comes down to, whatever works for you. So, as my Dad used to say, simmer down now.

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Freezing! (seriously, it's cold today!): Hi Foodies,

Thanks for the info on freezing. I don't have the best freezer habits (too much for too long), but was able to clean out during a recent move.

I am starting to make a lot from scratch including pizza doughs. I would like to make extra batches of pizza dough on say a rainy weekend, and freeze it for later. Does this work? How long should it defrost?

Also, do you recommend having things at room temperature before freezing? I'm thinking of broth, etc, that I do cool, but generally not all the way.

washingtonpost.com: The Big Chill: A Freezer Guide

Bonnie Benwick: I'll start with the cooling part of your question. If you have a standard freezer-as-part-of-fridge, chances are you wouldn't want to put anything in there that may raise the temperature. It's hard enough maintaining 0 degrees in that chamber as it is....

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Alexandria, VA: Can you please clarify the difference in heat and/or flavor between jalapeno and serrano peppers? Are they interchangeable in recipes? Thanks very much.

Andreas Viestad: No, they are not the same. The heat in chiles depends a lot on growing conditions and individual differences, something that can result in quite different heat readings among the same type of chiles. That said, heat is measured in Scoville units, and Jalapenos are typically in the 2800 to 8000 range, and Serranos are 10.000 to 25.000.

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Yardville, New Jersey: I have a Weber grill and for some of the larger cuts of meat, searing is specified. Is this done with the lid open or closed? I can't seem to find this information anywhere and it obviously affects how much heat the meat receives during this searing period.

David Hagedorn: Hello, Yardville. I am a Number One Weber fan, so I'm totally down with this question.

I'm going to give you some options. First, you could sear the meat in a skillet in the kitchen. This is fine for say, a 3-5 bone rib roast.

For larger things, like a whole pork loin or a briske(or any size meat for that matter, sear the meat with the lid off over direct heat. Watch out for flare-ups when the flames get to the meat's fat. Turn the meat frequently to keep this from happening and to get an even sear all around. If the flare-up is big, pull the meat away from the direct heat until the flames die down.

The other option is to purchase a flat, perforated grill pan. This you place directly over the charcoals and get it nice and hot, say for 20 minutes or so. Spray the meat all over with cooking spray and sear it on the grill pan the way you would in a skillet. Then proceed with the rest of your recipe.

As I always emphasize, use a remote meat themometer to ensure proper cooking.

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Boston: A cookware question. I have a wonderful old waffle iron that needed rehabbing. I scrubbed off the accumulated muck, and now need to re-season the pan. It may be cast iron, but is is electric and the plates cannot be removed so it can't go in the oven.

How do I re-season my waffle iron? Thank you.

Joe Yonan: I don't have one, but I'd say the best approach would be similar to that of a cast-iron skillet (with the exception of the oven-baking part). Rub oil onto the plates and heat the iron for a few minutes, then let it cool. Repeat a few times. And use oil before you make waffles, too, and then don't scrub it afterward -- just let it cool and wipe it clean.

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Whole Chicken Roasting: Do you have any tips? I love roasting whole chickens for weekend meals: drippings and veggies for other dishes, lots of chicken to cut away and eat.

Andreas Viestad: You might want to look at this article we did on roast chicken about a year ago. Pretty damn good, if I may say it myself. (And I may, since the recipe is Thomas Keller's.)

As for what to serve chicken with, I do it very simple: Either potatoes that have been roasted in the oven and have been flavored by the chicken, or green salad and bread. Perfect!

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Alexandria, VA: Regarding today's article on "Chat Leftovers: Wan, woeful scallops", Where would one find dry packed sea scallops? Even gourmet grocery stores sell scallops swimming in liquid. Thanks, Shirley

washingtonpost.com: Chat Leftovers: Wan, woeful scallops

Bonnie Benwick: Not so. BlackSalt in the Palisades sells them (202-342-9101), and so does Balducci's (oh how I miss the New Mexico Ave. store), although my favorite seafood vendor is Vernon Lingenfelter at the Bethesda Central Farm Market on Sundays. He also sells at the Kensington fm on Saturdays. His stuff is beeyoutiful.

Bonnie Benwick: Actually, now that I think about it, any good fishmonger should have them.

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Arlington, VA: I'm hosting a few friends for the Caps game tonight and am drawing a blank about what I should make for dinner. I want it to be comforting, just in case the worst happens, and it can't take a lot of prep time since I'll only be home for about an hour or so before the puck drops. Any ideas?

Bonnie Benwick: Hey, positive waves ONLY. Let's go, Caps! This is killer good, quite comforting. I guarantee you'll want to make it again, and it takes less than an hour to prepare: Pasta and Lentils, Sicilian Style.

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Fairfax, Va.: I took a chinese cooking class. One of the dishes we made was kung pao chicken. The instructor said the sauce we made was authentic - consisting of, basically, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, cayenne pepper and dried chilis. It's good, but not at all like what I get in a typical chinese restaurant, which is much thicker, and often sweeter. What do you think makes the difference?

David Hagedorn: Goopy cornstarch and sugary hoisin sauce, most likely. Stick with your new version.

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Mid-afternoon baby shower: Hi free rangers!

I'm throwing a mid-afternoon (2pm to 4pm) baby shower for my SIL next weekend and am looking for menu suggestions.

I was thinking of making mini scones and lemon curd; cucumber mint tea sandwiches; farfalle with pesto, tomatoes and pecorino; and a cheese and fruit plate.

Drinks would be white wine, raspberry lemonade, mint iced tea and sparkling water.

Cupcakes for dessert.

Any suggestions/alterations?

Bonnie Benwick: Something springy and crunchy might be nice. How about Andreas's Raw Asparagus and Fennel With Chervil Mayonnaise?

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Dupont Circle, D.C.: I chickened out last year but on the eve of the 14th and U farmers market opening for the season I decided this is the summer that I Put Up. Assuming I have a large stash of jars and lids and a very large stockpot, what else do I need to make start canning my farm fresh good?

Joe Yonan: You need a rack to hold the jars in that stockpot, you need a magnetic lid lifter, you need a jar lifter, you need a good funnel... and you need more jars and lids than you think, in lots of sizes. Small ones are great to have, so you can put up the remnants when you get down to the last part of the batch...

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Bethesda, MD: I'm going to try the chili-crusted flank steak and have a question about the chipotle chili powder. I have a lot of dried chipotles on hand. Could I use them to make powder? What's the best way to reduce them to powder--food processor? Mortar & pestle? They're still a bit sticky when chopped.

Bonnie Benwick: Hi Bethesda. Sure, use the dried ones you have on hand. Stem and seed, if desired, then spread them on a baking sheet and toast them in a 400-degree oven until fragrant and crisped, then cool completely and pulverize in your food processor -- or, better yet, use a coffee grinder designated for spices, which seems to work better for me.

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Liquor: I have some AfterShock, vodka, Kaluha, etc in the fridge. It was purchased to ring in 2008. Is it safe to consume? Thanks

Jason Wilson: Are you sure those bottles weren't purchase to ring in 1988?! No really, what else would we find in that fridge? The vodka should be no problem at all, because it's 40 percent alcohol. The Kaluha, as long as you've kept it well chilled should also be okay, even though it's lower at 40 proof -- though that's the one I'd be careful of.

As for the AfterShock...Really, dude, AfterShock? Is it the blue or the red? (If you have both, btw, you can make a Purple Haze shot). Anyway, the AfterShock is fine because it's high proof. I'm guessing when the world ends in 2011 (according to the Mayans) the AfterShock will be around and still, um, fine to drink.

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Washington, DC: Hi,

I am new to the area and wondered if you can tell me where I might buy either a rakweh or cezve?

Thanks, Merry

Bonnie Benwick: A Merry welcome to you! For those long-handled small coffee pots: Lezzet in Rockville (301-545-1688) usually stocks cezves but the store's out of them right now; expecting a shipment in 2 days. Lebanese Butcher and Market in Falls Church (703-533-2903) has rakwehs.

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Whipped Cream: Hi. I made a raspberry walnut cake this week. It had me whip heavy cream and fold it into the batter and the icing. I loved this cake, but couldn't do it for my family, knowing it contained the very rich heavy cream. Can I sub a lite Cool-whip in its place?

Bonnie Benwick: I don't follow. How much cream was it, anyway? More important, why would you want to feed your family WATER, CORN SYRUP, HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL (COCONUT AND PALM KERNEL OILS), HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, LESS THAN 2% OF SODIUM CASEINATE (FROM MILK), NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, XANTHAN AND GUAR GUMS, POLYSORBATE 60, SORBITAN MONOSTEARATE, BETA CAROTENE (COLOR), which is straight off the Cool Whip label?

Joe Yonan: The idea of subbing Cool-Whip makes me want to weep like stale whipped cream.

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DC: Re eggplant souffle, which sounds yummy, I have 2 questions for David:

I do not normally salt eggplant. Is it really necessary for this dish, and if so, why?

Can the mixture sit a little before baking to avoid last- minute preparation in the kitchen while guests are there, or is the only ahead-of-time possibility to freeze?

(And David, take good care of yourself!)

David Hagedorn: Hey,DC.

The reason for salting the eggplant is to draw out moisture and make the mixture as dry as possible. That way, it doesn't need so much starch to thicken it up. You'll notice I didn't add salt later in the eggplant part of the recipe, since there was already enough addd in that step. (I'm with you about salting eggplant usually. I know people suggest it to get rid of a bitter taste, but I've never had an issue with the taste of eggplant.)

The lamb filling can be made ahead (but added to the souffle at room temperature), but you want the eggplant mixture to be a little warm when you fold in the egg whites; it makes everything incorporate more fully evenly. And once the egg whites have been folded in, you should bake the souffle immediately, unless you freeze it right way.

PS: Try the freezer-to-oven method. It's a great time-saver for a host.

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re: eggplant moussaka: What would you recommend as a filling to replace the meat in the moussaka?

Andreas Viestad: I have had pretty good moussakas with lentils.

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Kimball versus Hesser: What an interesting edition today!!!! Read Jane Black's article first.

I loved Christopher Kimball's first two books and for a while was religiously watching his TV show and buying Cook's Il books he edited. I stopped using those books and watching his shows a long time ago. With new ingredients, appliances and techniques home cooking has moved in a different direction while Cooks Ill keeps reinventing meatloaf and pork chops that do not need "improvement." Although, I suppose his efforts are helpful to new cooks. I've been Amanda Hesser's aficionado since her NYT Magazine days. I still have some of those pages in plastic sleeves and I still use those recipes. She does not have as many recipes as Kimball, but unlike his somewhat "bureaucratic" recipes hers have a certain poetic sparkle. Dishes I've prepared from her recipes are amazing from first bite to aftertaste.

Can't wait to see the results of the challenge. I suspect Cook's Ill has a bigger name recognition... my other concern is: "the experts," the challenge will go one way if they are mostly Olive Garden fans, and the other way if they are not. Regardless, thank you Jane for a great article.

washingtonpost.com: Upstart startups vs. veterans: Who has the best recipes?

Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs: Thanks so much for your comment -- we appreciate the support! Hope you'll weigh in on Slate next week.

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Mainer living in exile....: anyone spotted any fiddleheads yet locally? I hope Whole Foods or Trader Joe's carries them again this year, because if not I'll have to pay a ton of money to buy them online! I should just fly up to my homestate of Maine and buy them on the roadside up there! Anyone see any in DC or NOVA? PS: I had not known about Food 52 until the Food section today. It is open in another browser as we speak and I am loving the site!

Joe Yonan: I wasn't in town for our farmers markets this past weekend, so don't know if they were here, but I did see them at the amazing Portland (Ore., not ME) farmers market on Saturday. I don't know about you, but I only like these if they're fresh-fresh-fresh, so buying them from a supermarket always disappoints.)

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Serving sizes: How are serving sizes on food packages determined/regulated? For instance, is a serving size listed on the nutrition panel of frozen vegetables (or bagged fresh, for that matter) equal to a USRDA serving size (e.g., four to five "servings" of veggies/fruit a day)? Does this vary by product? I am trying to eat more healthfully and am a little confused.

Bonnie Benwick: Good q. I think it's up to indiv. manufacturers to establish what their serving sizes are, and they don't necessarily correspond to USDA recommended servings. Check back next week and I hope to know more.

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Bacon, but not apple: I'm neither young nor thin but have to agree with the comment your co-worker made. I can absolutely understand cutting out refined sugars and carbs, but natural carbs from fruits and vegetables? That doesn't make any sense to me. Aren't you going to get full from eating all those apples before you ingest enough sugar to hurt you?

David Hagedorn: Hello, BBNA. Again, I'm not advocating the Atkins diet, but they expunge high-carb foods from the diet in the first 2 weeks. Just in the first 2 weeks. As I understand it, the diet encourages eating carbs from fruit and vegetables, but not high-carb fruits and vegetables. In the later phases of the diet, limited amounts of higher-carb fruits and vegetables are allowed. In other words, berries are better than apples and spinach is better than carrots.

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Pantry stocking: Hi!

My roommate and I are moving to a new apartment this week and since we're both big on cooking, we want to stock our pantry, so we'll have pretty much everything we need on-hand for cooking/baking. Are there any good lists online to help us get started? Also are there any magazine subscriptions you recommend for recipes, cooking tips,etc? I know of Cooks Illustrated but it's a little expensive for only 6 issues/yr. Thanks!

Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs: For a pantry list, we just found this one, which looks pretty great (and thorough): http://teriskitchen.com/pantry.html And we think there are a lot of great recipes and cooking writing online -- for instance, at food52! But here are some other sites we like: Chow.com, Epicurious.com and 101Cookbooks.com

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re: scallops: Thanks for using my question about cooking scallops in the chat leftovers. I definitely did not pat them dry. That must be a large part of the issue. Now I know what to do next time, I'll definitely try again. Thanks so much! By the way, I noticed they were very shiny when I saw them at the store. Is that what they should look like? I know fish isn't usually supposed to be shiny. Maybe it's the liquid they were being kept in that made them shiny.

Bonnie Benwick: You're welcome! That Jane Touzalin answers one heck of a Chat Leftover q, doesn't she? The scallops don't have to look bone-dry in the store. Sometimes they are seated in a bowl and some moisture develops. They shouldn't be swimming.

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Chevy Chase, Md.: I can't believe I missed the blog by Amanda Hesser. I've long been a fan and the one dish my mostly non-cooking spouse prepares weekly is caci de pepe from her Cooking With Mr. Latte book. I'm so delighted to know what she's doing now and plan to try the sugar cookies today. A cook from ChevyChase

Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs: Glad we found each other -- and looking forward to seeing you at food52!

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Eastern Market: As a faithful Food section reader-from-afar for MANY years, I've heard much about The Eastern Market in the Post. Now, my husband and I are looking forward to a visit to D.C. the first weekend of June and I thought it might be a good add to our itinerary. Here's the kicker: y'all never really say where it is (oh, I bet you do, because you are good, but not in the colloquial or chat references I've seen). Can you give us some guidance?

FWIW, we're staying in Alexandria near Gadsby's Tavern but will have transport. We're also planning a day trip to Annapolis for (fingers crossed) some hard shell crab. Unless we can find a place nearer(recommendations welcome).

Joe Yonan: It's on Capitol Hill. There's a Metro stop by that name.

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Baltimore: I'm having a few friends over for breakfast before heading to the Preaknesses races. Any suggestions for food that will not require me to spend much time over the stove in front of guests? I know it fits the bill, but I'm not really a fan of frittata or quiche. Thanks.

Joe Yonan: I'm a bigger fan of Spanish tortilla than I am of quiche. Have you made it? Fine to make a little ahead and serve at room temperature. Here's one with crab from Mr. Hagedorn himself.

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Baby Shower: How about a spring Salad such as spinach with strawberries and a poppyseed vinegrette or fresh spring mix with a simple vinegrette?

Also, is SIL a vegetarian, because there were no meat/fish options. If you want to stick with tea sandwiches how about a simple curried chicken salad on marble bread? Or smoked salmon with cream cheese, dill and capers on slices of baquette?

Bonnie Benwick: More shower suggestions.

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Clifton, VA: Alexandria,

Wegman's in Fairfax has dry day boat scallops. If it's your lucky day they have the small bay scallops, the regular size and the extra large.

$16.99 a lb.

They also have fresh never frozen shrimp most days.

No Halibut steaks because of their lawyers and bones bummer!

Bonnie Benwick: Good to know, Clifon. Wish we all lived closer to Wegmans. It has a very good seafood dept.

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Cast Iron Redemption: Love the chats, it always makes me think of food in a more creative way. I recently inherited a cast iron skillet, after a month it developed some sort of a chip in the enamel of the cooking surface and is now leaking when I try to use it. Any redemption? Or do I have to buy a new one? If so, any brands you can recommend that are less than say $70? I need to make my upside down cakes soon:(

Joe Yonan: Color me confused: It's pure cast iron, or enamel-coated cast iron? The chip in it goes all the way through the skillet, so liquid actually leaks through? If that's the case, I don't think it's salvageable, and you should buy a new one. Lodge makes skillets for way under your max price.

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diet advice - THANK YOU, David: David, and others-- So sorry to hear that you've received such snarky commentary. The light has dawned for me recently that my biggest obstacle in maintaining a healthy weight has been that I 've listened to too many people's opinions. From pre-puberty onward, I've heard comments from people about their weight, my weight, someone else's weight-- and I absorbed it all and thought I was just a "bad" person because I was not at a perfect weight. And then it dawned on me that a lot of these folks had their OWN issues related to food and control, not least of which was a compulsion to comment unsolicited on other people's eating and weight.

So, now I am teaching myself to tune out, to treat myself well (healthfully) each day in the ways that work for me, and to quiet the voices that tell me my weight or my appearance are who I am. That's not how I relate to others, and it is time it stopped being how I relate to myself.

So, thank you, David, for sharing your struggles. All of us who do struggle can benefit. To the naysayers: please realize you are NOT required to verbalize every judgment that crosses your minds, and that you are NOT the smartest person in the world on EVERY subject.

David Hagedorn: Right on and you're welcome! Most people, dare I say all, have some sort of issue with food. I mean, isn't it an addiction that we all have to manage in some way from birth? It's not as if we can simply stop eating, the way it is possible to give up drinking or other such proclivites completely.

I still maintain that most of us know that more calories need to go out than are coming in to lose weight. Clearly, that is not the disconnect where food issues are concerned.

Good luck to you and kudos for understanding that there is only one person to whom you need to answer, and it's not the one who's telling you what you're doing wrong.

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Petworth: Not a question really, I just had to say - the beer column today was GREAT! There are homebrewers in my house, and hops growing in my yard, and we got some great ideas. Also, we want to taste the beer he's brewing.

I was at the plant sale at the monastery this weekend, and got some of the honey. I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of the bees. The honey is great.

washingtonpost.com: On a whim and a prayer

Bonnie Benwick: Thanks! Katherine Frey took some nice photos to go with.

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almond sponge: The best cake I've ever had was the Brazilian double chocolate cake from Balducci's. It was an almond sponge with chocolate mousse and white chocolate mousse. Any recipes to help me replicate it? Maybe a project for the Flour Girl?

Bonnie Benwick: We'll check it out. Flour Girl's working on her own project right now, away from the office.

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Chocolate Oatmeal cookies: Joe, did you ever try the Chocolate Oatmeal cookie recipe I sent in a couple weeks ago? Were they the same ones as your mother used to make?

Joe Yonan: You know, I haven't gotten to them yet, because I was away all last week at a work conference -- and because I'm preparing to take May off as a book leave. But I will, I promise. Maybe they'll even make it into our holiday cookie issue!

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Oakland: I want to make tamales but I hate Mexican food. Any suggestions?

Joe Yonan: What's Spanish for "no"? Oh, that's right: No.

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sugar cookie: Would sugar cookie #2 be appropriate for add-ins like chocoalte chips and dried cranberries?

Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs: Yes -- it would because it was inspired by a chocolate chip recipe.

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Re Jamie Oliver in Huntington, WV: Will the Post continue to follow Jamie Oliver's eating-reform project in Huntington, WV., now that the final episode of the series is over? I sure hope the school system won't back-slide into its bad old ways.

Joe Yonan: We'll get Jane Black back out to Huntington from time to time, I imagine... Might make a good occasional blog series, don't you think?

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skinny chicken: hi all!

congrats david on your weight loss efforts. i've recently dropped 14 lbs and am on my way to drop about 10 more!

my question is in regards to chicken. i love roasted chicken flavored with various spices under the skin. if i roast it that way to preserve the most flavor and remove the skin before i eat the breast meat, will i still be ingesting more fat than if i were to cook a boneless skinless chicken breast? do you know if any calorie/fat comparison exists for chicken breast cooked with skin and then removing the skin compared to regular old (boring!) boneless skinless breasts from the supermarket?

Thanks, and keep up the great work!

Joe Yonan: This recent column by Jennifer Huget about some new strategies in Cooking Light has persuaded me to never EVER remove the chicken skin again. I'll cut to the chase with this quote: "A 12-ounce bone-in, skin-on chicken breast half contains just 2.5 grams of saturated fat and 50 calories more than its similarly portioned skinless counterpart."

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Annapolis : For the chatter headed to Annapolis for crabs--head to Cantler's. If you want to make the trip across the bridge, Harris Crab House. I much prefer Cantlers, however.

Joe Yonan: Thanks!

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Bakeware help: I am having serious issues with my metal bakeware. No matter how I wash them (hand or machine), I get rusting around the edges. I also have issues with the 13x9 pans getting knife cuts in the bottom but need to be able to cut brownies, lasagna, etc. Any suggestions as to alternative washing/cutting methods and/or brands of bakeware? I have a lovely 9" tart pan with a removeable bottom that I use a lot and I think I am going to have to toss it. Am I doomed to just have to replace my bakeware on a regular basis?

Bonnie Benwick: Hmm. Sometimes the corners/edges are where lots of scrubbing's called for, and some finish can wear away.

Also, it's not the washing so much as the drying that's really key. Make sure the pans are thoroughly dry in the corners before you put them away. As for cutting in the pan, try not to! Just about anything can be baked with aparchment paper or foil liner; let the edges hang over on 2 sides so you can pull the slab o' brownies or whatever out to a cutting board. Same for the tart pan. Line with parchment, then run a knife between the removable bottom and the paper to slide whatever it is onto the cutting board.

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Middle of nowhere, Mass.: Thanks for the marvelous idea on the tarts! My library has the very cookbook you suggested.

I'd like to add that the reason why I'm doing this baking ahead is to try to make the wedding as economical as possible.

I would enthusiastically make use of the America's Test Kitchen collection of recipes!

Bonnie Benwick: Editor Joe, did you catch that?

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Washington, DC: I went online to the Bethesda Central Farmers Market to find Vernon Lingenfelter and he was not listed. I want to make sure he does go to that market on Sunday because I want to check him out this Sunday.

Bonnie Benwick: I just did, too. He has been listed in the past! But he's always there, unless the weather's bad for a whole week (which can affect what fish he's able to get).

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Washington, D.C.: Seeing the picture on the front page reminded me - Jack Bishop has written a few cookbooks outside of the CI realm, and the one I used was really quite good. Pretty specific instructions, but not as regimented as CI. Also mostly, if not all, vegetarian. CI is pretty dismissive of vegetarians.

Joe Yonan: Yes, I think Jack's stuff is great.

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Seattle, WA: I have a question about how to use ground coffee in cooking. I like the flavor of coffee and have access to great coffee grinds, but any recommendations for how to use the grinds without worrying about chewing on them later?

Joe Yonan: Two thoughts: 1) Use freshly ground coffee. 2) Put whatever you're making through a fine filter before consuming.

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re: Boston's Cookware Question: Can you follow the same procedure with cast iron grill racks? Mine are rusty after having cleaned off last season's accumulation of muck. Thanks.

Joe Yonan: Yep. Basically, seasoning of metal is merely a process of opening up the pores so that it soaks up oil to create a more nonstick surface. So scrub off the rust, oil down, and heat. Repeat (well, don't repeat the scrubbing part, just the oiling down and heating part). And be more gentle when cleaning off the muck... (I find that the grill racks clean most easily when they're hot -- so either right after you cook, or if it waits till the next go-round, after you've heated up the grill but before the food goes on.)

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Oven-Roasting Chicken: I enjoy a good oven-roasted whole chicken on weekends, the only time I can cook, really, because it offers almost a full weekend's worth of meat plus the option of roasting veggies in the pan at the same time. Any tips, tricks? Is marinading a whole chicken worth the effort?

Joe Yonan: See that roast-chicken article we linked to previously in the chat. It's great.

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Lucky me!: Hey, what fun, my son and I caught a 7-lb. landlocked salmon this past weekend...it's now ready to be cooked...except I don't know how to cook it! (first one we've caught--we froze it...)

Any ideas on a kid-friendly, fairly healthy way to cook it? Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: I read about a cool way to grill a whole salmon in the new Darina Allen cookbook, and you'll be able to see why it appeals to me: Clean the fish properly, season as you like and wrap the thing in several layers of newsprint. Bind with kitchen twine. About the time the paper's browned and slightly charred, the fish is done.

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Sterling VA: This is for Mr. Hagedorn,

I am so sorry to hear about your heart attack, (but happy to hear that you made it!) I sure don't wish that on anyone, since my husband recently went something really rotten too (hospitalization for abdominal bleeding due to stomach ulcer-due to meds to treat gout) So hi cholesterol, overweight, gout(can you believe it?) and bleeding ulcer made for some big changes in diet at our house that have brought good results. I've got a bunch of them and maybe some can help you stay out of hospital (I don't wish that on anyone!)

Food diary- have you done this? Every bite. The purpose isn't to shame you into starving-it's to discover for real your eating patterns and your sticking points. One month reaveals things you never knew.

No juice, unless you lace half with mineral water.

Never leave the house hungry.

Exercise every day, walking the dog is great. Too strenuous exercise if you aren't worked up to it makes you ravenous.

I'm not submitting this to see it online-if it's helpful and you are interested in any of the other things people have shared with me, just indicate that and I'll send them along. I think each person has to find what works for them and I wish you well.

David Hagedorn: Thanks, Sterling:

My trainer has been trying for years to get me to keep a food diary and I am resisting, kind of like I resisted Twitter and Facebook for so long. (I was wrong about Twitter; right about Facebook.)

I know it's a smart thing to do, but the denial voice still murmurs. I am getting closer to taking that plunge, though.

I'm not a juice drinker anyway, so that's easy for me to follow. I replaced my Diet-Pepsi habit with a flavored, no calorie, carbonated water habit.

I walk my darling doggie twice daily.

And what a great idea about not leaving the house hungry!

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Baltimore, MD: The recipe you linked to for Spanish tortilla says it makes 8 servings in the recipe text, but the nutrition information says it is based on 20 servings. Seems like it should probably be 8, though I don't know whether or not the nutrition info needs to be updated or not.

Joe Yonan: Thanks for catching that. We'll fix. I'm assuming that yep, it should be 8, with the same nutrition info. But we'll double check and make it right.

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Bethesda, MD: Just wanted to give a shoutout to food52--I made the Seriously Addictive Asparagus and it was, as advertised, seriously addictive.

Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs: How great -- thanks for giving it a try. We loved that recipe, too.

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Fiddleheads: One of the vendors at Eastern Market had them, but they were not fresh, fresh, fresh - and were a disappointment. It was one of the aggregators (not the real farmers). Don't know why I bothered...

Joe Yonan: I have to say, and I've said it before, I'm not a huge fiddlehead fan. And it's really because I like them only when they're practically just picked. Anything else and they're woody and tough and really kind of awful.

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back off of Hagedorn!: I want to state, as a vegan, how I'm behind Hagedorn's quest to be healthy no matter -what- works for him! I am sorry you are getting targeted my people projecting their food issues onto you. I personally have been moved by your writing over the years - from anger at your attitude in the infamous mayonnaise article to sympathy and understanding after your cardiac event. I want to read more - I feel such a personal connection!! Keep at it!

David Hagedorn: Thanks so much, reader. Glad to know that my work moves you; that's gold to a writer. I think you may be referring tothe hollandaise piece I wrote, "Last Minute Sauce with no Mea Culpa"? (Oy vey!)

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Anonymous: I am not familiar with Food52. Is it like Epicurious?

Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs: We're not that much like Epicurious, except that we both have recipes. Our premise is to unearth and celebrate great recipes by home cooks around the country. Come check us out!

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Serving Sizes: Serving sizes on packages are based on regulations set up by FDA that are in turn based on amounts of foods that are usually consumed by Americans (e.g., 1 cup of milk or juice). Manufacturers have some leeway in changing their serving size, but not much-- they can't just make up the serving size they want.

Bonnie Benwick: How do you know this?

Joe Yonan: I would take issue with this. It's been a complaint of nutrition-oriented activists for a long time, that, for instance, a 6-ounce bag of chips that's obviously designed to be consumed in one sitting can be several servings.

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Help! Raw peanuts: My coworker just came in with homemade boiled peanuts. He bought the raw ones in Georgia. Do you know where I can find raw peanuts? I forgot how much I LOVE boiled peanuts.

Bonnie Benwick: Sunnyside Farm and Orchard of Charles Town, W.Va., is growing peanuts (and selling boiled ones at the Palisades Farmers Market on Sundays). Maybe they'd bring you raw ones?

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carb control: It really is a wonder. I cut out all white food and fruit (I really dislike fruit, so this was easy for me) for about 3 years, and it was amazing. I didn't decrease what I ate, just changed what I ate. I was just more aware and careful about ingredients and creative with cooking. My husband, a physical therapist and personal trainer who is a committed exercise proponent, couldn't believe how well it trimmed me down. I don't know why or how it worked, but it did. I slowly fell off of it with my second child. I fell back on convenience foods when I got busy.

David Hagedorn: Those carbs can be deadly for me. I would cut up a whole pineapple or a watermelon and snack on it throughout the day, telling myself that it was "fruit" and therefore OK. Of course, I knew better, but there you go.

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birthday party: I'm having a morning birthday party for my son's first birthday. While there will be a handful of kids, it will be mostly adults. I need some ideas for morning snacks to serve as chips and salsa don't seem like they would cut it at 10am.

Bonnie Benwick: Some freshly baked quickbreads, some eggy tortilla slices, some small fruit kebabs?

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Hummus: I've heard it both ways: with and without tahini, you can make a respectable hummus. While I don't mind getting and storing large amounts of "occassional" foods (such as huge things of miso), I do worry about spoilage. Any advice?

Bonnie Benwick: For me, tahini's a must. Make a batch and freeze it.

Bonnie Benwick: Sorry, do you mean storing the tahini? It'll keep in the fridge for several months.

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Tortillas: Where can I get good ones? I hate the ones in the grocery store - too blah and gummy. I had a breakfast burrito at a restuarant and asked where they got theirs - but it was a restaurant wholesale

Bonnie Benwick: Here's a taste test we did in 2008.

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Alexandria, VA: David, I loved your article as someone who has battled weight issues all of my life but loves food (and I don't mean McDonald's). The Moussaka recipe looks great but I have a nut allergy, can I use 2% or skim regular milk instead? Thank you for sharing your story.

washingtonpost.com: Eggplant Moussaka Souffle

David Hagedorn: Interesting how this story has really struck a chord. I think I;ll have to pursue this subject further.

Yes, of course feel free to use skim milk or low-fat milk. Enjoy!

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Scallops: Water? You go to Whole Foods and they pick up individual scallops from the case and wrap them in paper for you. There is no liquid involved. Not sure where this person is buying them.

Andreas Viestad: The best, if possible, is to buy whole live scallops. The taste is superior and it also offers you the delicious roe - it is like the foie gras of the sea (only not force fed).

Joe Yonan: Andreas lives in another country. It's times like these (whole live scallops!) that I want to live there, too.

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Joe Yonan: Well, you've baked us for 50 to 55 minutes or until we have puffed and are golden brown, and a metal skewer inserted into our middle comes out clean, so you know what that means -- ouch, and we're done!

Thanks for the great q's and comments today, and thanks to special guests Amanda Hesser, Merrill Stubbs, David Hagedorn and Andreas Viestad for helping us answer them. Now for the book winners: The chatter who said "Husband and kids would like burgers tonight" will get, of course, "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners." And the chatter from "middle of nowhere, Mass." who's cooking for the wedding will get "Let's Get Cooking" from ATK. Send your mailing info to food@washpost.com and we'll get you your stuff...

Until next week, happy cooking, eating and reading. I'll see you in June, after I'm back from book leave, but the rest of the crew will be ably covering in my absence.

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