Free Range on Food: Meatless Mondays, mint, pork shoulder, granola bars, butter milk, whole wheat flour, more

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The Food Section
of the Washington Post
Wednesday, May 19, 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.

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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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Bonnie Benwick: Having a meatless Wednesday, or would you rather be trendy and shoot for Mondays like my colleague Jane Black wrote about in this week's section? Or are you into foraging, a la Washington Cook Gabe Mandel and Washington College professor Bill Schindler? If you were intrigued by Lisa Yockelson's evolved granola bars, you're in luck: She's in for the chat. Feel free to toss any baking questions her way. Also in for the hour: Dean Gold, the always entertaining and outspoken chef-owner of Dino in Cleveland Park, and later on Jane Touzalin. Jane Black's on assignment and Editor Joe's away. For giveaways, we've got Todd Kliman's "The Wild Vine," which was reviewed by columnist Dave McIntyre, and "The Athlete's Palate Cookbook," source of today's Dinner in Minutes. We'll announce winners at the end of the chat. Lots of early questions, so here we go.

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Granola bar: I've been making granola semi-regularly after trying the Real Simple magazine's version. It uses maple syrup and I think that gives the granola a lot of flavor. How do you think a sub of maple syrup for golden syrup would work for today's granola bars?

I think the viscosity is a bit different and that the flavor would be stronger from maple syrup. I imagine it would probably also brown faster. Do you think I'd need to adjust the liquid amount at all? Is there a certain texture you look for when you pour the syrup mixture over the oat mixture?

washingtonpost.com: The evolved granola bar

Lisa Yockelson: You are correct in assuming that the viscosity level of the syrup would be compromised by swapping maple syrup for the golden syrup or honey. Remember, we are making a kind of bar cookie here, not crumbly granola. The browning element is of lesser concern to me. You might try using 1/4 cup maple syrup and 3/4 cup golden syrup. The syrup is supposed to be lightly thickened, but more than that, it is supposed to be "syrupy," which will cause the ingredients to adhere properly during baking.

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I submitted the wine Q last week from chat leftovers: Thanks for answering! We'll go with Stephanie's "Drink wine anytime" answer because while I love port, my fiance does not. At all. Or maybe we'll cut the custom to a year, and open up our options. Any suggestions on that? Something that goes well with year-old wedding cake? (Just kidding-- that is gross. Sorry to anyone who did that.)

But we've been together for seven years already, so I'm not too worried about reaching the next ten. I also figured if we _did_ get to ten, and opened the wine and it was vinegar, then hey, there's our huge fight!! :) Thanks so much.

washingtonpost.com: Chat Leftovers: Aging wine, for better or for worse

Dean Gold: For a 10 year wine, I would pick up 2004 vintage Brunello di Montalcino from a top producer like Costanti or Pertimali. These wines will be in prime condition in 10 years. For a less expensive alternative, you can buy Rosso di Montalcino which is the less aged version of the Brunello, but I would figure on it being drinkable in 5 or so years.

As far as marrriage, fighting and all that, my wife and I will be celebrating our 22nd annoversary and have been together for 29 years before the end of the year. As I like to say of our marriage, it has been 17 of the most wonderful years of my life. And Kay, if you are reading this, don't you have work to do?!?

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tomato tip: As we perused seed catalogs and information for this growing season, we were delighted to see this information about freezing tomatoes. Ah, the thoughts of warm weather and SO MANY tomatoes we can't use them all at once...

"Although indeterminate heirloom tomato varieties typically ripen throughout the growing season, there are times when you may end up with an abundance of fruit and little time to cook into sauces or can. One solution is to freeze some for use during the winter months. Simply cut about 3/8 of an inch off the stem end of each fully ripe, unblemished tomato. Package them for the freezer by placing them into a freezer bag and placing the freezer bag in a brown grocery bag for extra protection. When ready to use, hold the frozen tomatoes under hot water for a few seconds. The skin will split open and slip off easily allowing you to use them in you usual recipes." -- from Victory Seeds

Bonnie Benwick: Chatters, have any of you had success with this method? I would think that ice crystals in the cell walls of the tomato would do some damage. Maybe we'll try to contact Victory.

Dean Gold: I'm with Bonnie, I don't like the texture of previously frozen tomatoes. I prefer to cook the tomatoes.

I cut them in large chunks, cook in a stainless steel pot until very soft. I then put them thru a food mill nad let settle overnight. I recook gently until when the mixture settles, there is no tomato water at the top. You now have a concentrated tomato essence that freezes beautifully and is perfectly neutral.

I know it will last from tomato season until about February frozen in heavy duty plastic. We make about 200 quarts of this a year at the restaurant and February is the longest its ever lasted.

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Boston: This is a combined food and gardening question. I go through many bunches of mint in summer cooking. I'd like to grow it in my garden, but need to know what kind of mint plants to cultivate.

When I buy mint in the market, it is just labeled mint...what kind of mint is it? Is it likely to be spearmint or peppermint? Last year I planted peppermint and it didn't taste right. Advice appreciated. Thank you.

Bonnie Benwick: Post gardening columnist (and All We Can Eat's Groundwork blog poster) Adrian Higgins says "most commonly grown is spearmint, with peppermint a close second. Both would be hardy for you, and they like to spread, especially in moist soil. There are many other varieties, especially of peppermint. And a species named Mentha suaveolens. I don't know good herb nurseries in Boston, I would check with the New England Horticultural Society or the Herb Society of America."

Dean Gold: Pineapple and orange mint are wonderful in salads and drinks. Just grow them in containers since they will spread to take over your garden!

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Falls Church, VA: Hi there! I'm just learning how to cook with meat, after years of a vegetarian roommate. I bought pork shoulder on a whim, and now I'm not sure what to do with it. It's currently in the freezer. I have a slow cooker, and an inkling that the pork shoulder should go with the slow cooker. Now what?

Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: You're on the right track, Falls Church. Slow does nice things to pork shoulder (sometimes called butt). It's an inexpensive cut, and a good thing to have on hand in the freezer. Either a slow cooker or low-slow in the oven or stovetop will do, but then again, we've got a pressure-cooker recipe that is fast and topnotch. If you go slow in the oven, don't trim the fat, as it will provide a glorious baste. Check out: Pork Ragu for a Crowd, Pressure Cooker Carnitas, Green Chili Stew. I've just tested a recipe for Editor Joe's upcoming cookbook in which you slather on a spicy paste, wrap the pork in foil and slow-roast for hours. It was pull-apart tender and delicious; then you could use freeze the meat in portions and use it for filling tacos or whatever. Normally, the cut comes in pretty large weights, but WFM sells 3-pounders.

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Great Falls, VA: Pulled pork quandary! I have bought pork shoulder for my son's birthday request of pulled pork bbq sandwiches, and am debating how to tackle it. I have a gas grill (hooked to gas line, so no worries in running low on fuel), but wonder if it would be more foolproof to do it in a low oven. If I go with the oven, should I keep the meat covered (both for texture and preserving oven cleanliness?) I am planning to use a dry rub, then mix with a vinegar sauce after pulling. Maybe mop during cooking, too? All advice gratefully appreciated, thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: Funny how chatter interests run in pairs (see previous q-and-a). I find it's easier to do in the oven so you don't have to reload charcoal or burn through gas on the grill. But if you want to do it on the gas grill, that will work fine. Low, slow heat, and covering tightly with foil will create the moistness that helps the fat melt and the meat get tender enough to pull apart easily. (Am hungry now.)

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Bonnie Benwick: Spirits columnist Jason Wilson just piped aboard. Now we're really rolling.

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Kensington, MD: Thanks in large part to the discussions in this forum & other wonderful writings, my husband and I are really working hard to buy local, organic (either certified or in practice) foods. However, when we go out to eat, we'd really like to do the same. I posed this to Tom last week but it wasn't chosen so I'm hoping you can help me. Other than Jackie's in Silver Spring, what restaurants serve non-cafo'ed, mass produced meat that I'd actually want to eat?

Dean Gold: There are a lot of places that fill the bill here. At Dino we use all fairly locally sourced meats: Virginia and Maryland for beef and pork, New York for rose veal, Pennsylvania for duck and lamb.

Brian McBride at Blue Duck, Rob Weland at Poste are also very committed to sustainable, local meat sources.

Bar Pillar was also in the past, but I have not eaten there recently so I am not sure of right now.

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Alexandria, VA: Thanks for providing a lower fat and sugar variation of the granola bar today. Is a nutrition analysis available for the lower calorie version?

Bonnie Benwick: We'll do it and add to the recipe later today.

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Non-judgy vegan: Hi Jane- I just wanted to drop a note thanking you for your GREAT article on Meatless Mondays! It made my day to see the Washington Post taking the movement seriously. But beyond the daunting political challenges you laid out so clearly, I think on a micro level way too many people fall into the trap of thinking they have to give up meat entirely to make any difference in the environment, their health, etc., and I'm frustrated that it's often vegans like me who make people feel that way.

Bacon-lovers of the world: Just do what works best for you personally - even a little less meat can make a huge difference (in your wallet, too), so if you're not going to go veg, go flex! Don't worry, I promise you won't spend every Monday eating lentil loaf and salad - you'd be amazed at the variety of tasty plant-based food out there these days.

Blogs like Fat-free Vegan and Vegan YumYum (and the WP's recipe database, of course) are great places to start if you don't want to invest in a cookbook but need a little inspiration.

washingtonpost.com: Meatless Mondays, a movement that has legs

Bonnie Benwick: Well said.

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Dupont Circle, D.C.: I know I could've just asked them but...where do the Eastern Market purveyors get their food? No one considers it a farmers market so I was always under the impression that the produce & meat come from the same place that the grocery store gets it. Is that a safe assumption?

Bonnie Benwick: Not that we're giving away prizes for such things, but you win for odd question of the day!

Fruit and vegetables are local and a bit farther afield; they are not necessarily from the same wholesalers that supply grocery stores. There's even less chance that the meat vendors use the same suppliers as chain stores, and more of a chance the meats are from within a tri-state area. Although I just contacted Canales Quality Meats, who says they will get in some meat from Colorado and Nebraska. Your initial instinct is right -- next time you're at Eastern Market, ask the vendors.

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Some baking questions: In general, if a recipe calls for all-purpose flour, can I safely sub half of it with whole wheat, keeping the other half AP? Second, if I'm supposed to knead something by hand, should I make any time adjustments if I knead my dough in a mixer? Thanks!

Lisa Yockelson: The answer to the first part of the question is that it depends on the type of baked good you are making: this may work with some quick breads but you might have to adjust the amount of liquid and/or leavening because whole wheat flour is typically dense and absorptive. The same watchpoint applies to substituting whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour in yeast breads. With regard to the second question, yes, you should make an adjustment in kneading time when using a mixer: check the dough after half of the by-hand kneading time is accomplished.

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chocolate muffin: I can't find a good recipe for chocolate muffins, I find them so dry. Do you think I would be better off using a cake batter?

Bonnie Benwick: I guarantee you these Fudgy Zucchini Muffins these won't be dry. But since we've got ace baker Lisa Yockelson in the house....

Lisa Yockelson: Actually, some muffins are made with a "creamed" batter, just like some cake batters, so you might look out for those. In addition, this type of muffin batter benefits from using butter, eggs, and a decent amount of liquid to bring them to baked moistness.

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DC: While I was staying with a friend in Boston, she served a jar of "sweet apple butter" that was unlike any apple butter I'd had before. The consistency was more like caramel, and one of the main ingredients was maple syrup. My friend said that she had picked up this jar on a trip to Montreal and been rationing it ever since, as she couldn't find it in any local stores.

I would like to send my friend a few jars as thanks for her hospitality, but I didn't write down the brand name. Despite lots of creative Googling I can't find anything resembling what I ate in Boston. If you or any chatters have heard of this, I'd love suggestions on where to look.

Bonnie Benwick: Chatters?

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20007: I have some left over butter milk in my fridge - I've already made muffins and the Post's recipe for Rubble Buckle (which is amazing, BTW), but any other suggestions? Is it possible to make a frosting using a good chunk of buttermilk? Or maybe just something that would freeze well?

Lisa Yockelson: Though best eaten oven fresh, buttermilk biscuits would be a good choice for using up the buttermilk. Personally, my feeling is that buttermilk is quite tangy for most frostings, with the exception of a cream cheese frosting.

Jane Touzalin: If you are a dog lover and make homemade dog biscuits, buttermilk is great for those. That's when you run out of human-food options for it, of course.

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Boulder, CO: I enjoyed Dave's review of "The Wild Vine". Todd & I briefly dated my freshman year at the University of Maryland and it's been fun watching his career take off over the years! So if you need someone to give the book to.....

washingtonpost.com: Recommendations: Norton wines

Bonnie Benwick: Bold way to go, Boulder.

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Shenandoah Valley, VA: This is the best (only) way to cook pork shoulder.

Carnitas (adapted from Diana Kennedy) Ingredients: 3 pounds of pork butt; 1 cup of orange juice; 3 cups of water; 2 teaspoons of salt.

1. Cut pork into strips (three inches by one inch), add to a large pot with the liquids and salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered on low for 2 hours. Do not touch the meat.

2. After two hours, turn heat up to medium high, and continue to cook until all the liquid has evaporated and the pork fat has rendered (about 45 minutes). Stir a few times, to keep pork from sticking to bottom of pan.

3. When pork has browned on both sides, it's ready (there will be liquid fat in the pan). Serve either cubed or shredded (pork will be tender enough that just touching it will cause it to fall apart).

It is so easy and so so so delicious.

Dean Gold: The only thing I might add is a spice rub to the pork strips. Black cumin, corainder seed and black pepper ground with garlic and moistened with a touch of OJ. Rub on the pork and let sit for a day or two before cooking!

Bonnie Benwick: I appreciate the loyalty to Queen D, but there's more than one way to go.

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Sage advice about Sage: My sage plant has overgrown itself. It is getting huge and now that it is done flowering its pretty purple flowers I really wish I could use it up. So what can I do with lots and lots of Sage. ( think of a 1 foot cube of sage plant leaves that need to be cut back.)

Dean Gold: Sage Pesto! Take walnuts, garlic, pecorino Toscano if you like sharp or grana if you like smoother cheese flavors and grind in a food processor till pasty. Add olive oil in a smooth stream until you get a very very thick emulsion. Balance with a little lemon juice. Chop the pesto with a knife and hand mix into the nut/oil mixture. Add more oil to make sure the sage leaves are totally covered. You can freeze it in small single serving portions in 4 oz canning jars.

Great on pork, fish, with cheese ravioli or gnudi.

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Chickpea Salad: Loved the chickpea salad recipe in today's Food Section. Will this salad be good to prepare and refrigerate and take to a picnic? Will the avocado hold once the salad comes to room temperature?

washingtonpost.com: Chickpea, Cucumber, Tomato and Avocado Salad

Bonnie Benwick: Picnic, yesss. Stephanie Sedgwick said the salad could hold in the fridge for up to 8 hours, so I figure there's enough acidity to keep the avocado in good shape. You could always assemble the salad except for the avocado, then add at the last minute.

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NYC: I am interested in making this bread recipe.

Two questions: 1) Do you think I could let the bread rise in the fridge over night and bring it up to room temp before baking, instead of for the 2 hours recommended by the recipe at room temperature, and 2) Any suggestions of where I can find Dutch process cocoa? I've been having no luck at the usual places. Thanks

Lisa Yockelson: Droste cocoa (Dutch-process) is usually available at major markets, in the baking aisle and frequently in the powdered drink section (where cocoa mixes abound). Also, you should check out The Baker's Catalog (King Arthur Flour) for the cocoa. Regarding excellent baker David L"s recipe, you should really e-mail him for his suggestions--but, in my opinion, the bread dough looks like it would be fine for overnight storage.

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bento boxes: Any ideas where to buy bento boxes? I thought they would be cool to serve guests nuts and olives when they come for a party.

Bonnie Benwick: Yep. Here's a list we ran back in 2007, which includes online places:

· Arise (114 Roanoke Pl., College Park, 301-486-1230). The giant warehouse of Asian imports has large bento boxes good for at-home entertaining (e.g., a lacquer box with 12 bold-red compartments) and smaller ones with fan designs. The store is liquidating, so the boxes are on sale, starting at $65.

· Ginza (1721 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-332-7000). The Japanese specialty store sells elegant boxes made of lacquer, such as a round stacked model with a subtle gold pattern ($38.50); square-ish boxes with a colorful fan motif ($13.50); and three tiers of gold and black boxes appropriate for formal events such as weddings ($13-$21). The store also sells decorative furoshiki ($10-$33), cloths that wrap around the box and double as tablecloths.

· Han Ah Reum/H Mart(8103 Lee Hwy., Falls Church, 703-573-6300). The Asian market has a number of boxes, including two-piece containers with fan or floral embellishments, or gold bunnies hopping under the moon ($19.99). A smaller version has two simple pink flowers sprouting from the lid ($14.99). For children (or childlike adults), a powder blue plastic box with a family of bunnies and a nursery rhyme quote is on sale for a few bucks.

· Lotte (3250 Old Lee Hwy., Fairfax, 703-352-8989). The Asian supermarket stocks bento boxes in its kitchenware section. Its offerings are well suited for outdoor picnics: a green-and-white plastic container with three compartments ($9.99) and a two-layer metal stack that resembles an artist's paintbrush case ($26.99).

· Taiga Books and Video(1055 Rockville Pike, Rockville, 301-738-2409) offers bento boxes appropriate for formal or casual outings. Its square, ornamental lacquer boxes have two or three levels and are ideal for special events, such as flower viewing or summer parties (from $28). Kid-friendly plastic containers are designed with anime or cartoon characters and include a fork and spoon or chopsticks (from $20).

· Teaism (2009 R St. NW, 202-667-3827). The tea shop and restaurant sells a black-and-red dinner-size lacquer box with five compartments ($32); spy on a diner's meal to see the layout. Also check out the boxes at the Teaism at 400 Eighth St. NW, 202-638-6010.

· For bento boxes sold online, check Korin Japanese Trading Corp. (http://www.korin.com), Buy4AsianLife.com (http://www.buy4asianlife.com), Cherry Blossom Gardens (http://www.cherryblossomgardens.com), Ekitron (http://www.ekitron.com) and Laptop Lunches (http://www.laptoplunches.com).

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Washington, DC: Just got a bag of whole wheat flour for a recipe, and am interested in using it more often in baking. Other than seeking out recipes that specifically call for w.w., is there a rule of thumb for replacing regular AP flour with w.w.? (The bag says to start with 25-50%, but that seems like a big adjustment to me...) Thanks!

Lisa Yockelson: In general, it depends upon the exact recipe with regarding to swapping whole wheat flour for some of the all-purpose flour used in a baking formula. A quick bread batter, for example, reacts differently based on the exchange than does a yeast formula, so giving a generic substitution formula does not work across the board--in my opinion. However, I would begin only with a small replacement at first, such as 20 percent.

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Mexican fail: Hey guys, so I was watching an episode of Rick Bayless on TV the other week when he made mojo de ajo, which got me so excited I made it last week. I used it as a sauce for some shrimp and pasta that night and then put some foil over the pan and popped it in the fridge. I cleaned it out a few days later and grabbed what I thought was an old casserole and told my husband to toss it - but when he took the foil off, it looked like some weird lemon curd dessert I made. It wasn't until that night that I realized it was my mojo de ajo and that the olive oil must have congealed.

Now that I've wept my heart out about throwing away four garlic heads-worth of sauce that took me forever to smash and prepare, what in the world happened? Was putting foil on it not enough of a cover? I know in the TV episode I saw, Bayless put it in a canning type jar, but I didn't have any. I did let it sit out for a few hours, but it was still in liquid form when I put it in the fridge. I really want to make this again, but not if it's just going to congeal up again!

Dean Gold: Let it come to room temperature and it will liquefy. It might need some stiring. But the congealing is natural and actually will serve to preserve flavors.

Bonnie Benwick: Funny, not failure. I had the exact same reaction and made the mojo de ajo right away. Didn't your house smell amazing? My neighbors even commented. Dean's right. Let it come to room temp or heat up and all is well. But you really should use some type of airtight container, even if it's a resealable plastic food storage bag put inside a bowl for stability.

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Washington, DC: I'm so glad you haven't switched to the new Q&A format. Tom's restaurant chat did today and it was hard to read. This is much easier.

washingtonpost.com: All remaining chats will be switching over soon. Sorry.

Bonnie Benwick: We'll all get used to it soon enough. Notice the dramatic juxtaposition of gray-scale Q's, not to mention the A's.

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Fairfax VA: I have some baby beets. Normally I roast my beets and add them in salads. Do you have a recipe that I can try with these baby ones? Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: Roasting's still a good way to go, but how about a nice glaze? Balsamic-Glazed Baby Beets?

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cabbage: I've been cooking cabbage with carrots and peas or with potatoes, but I need some new ideas for cabbage side dish (without meat).

Dean Gold: I love cabbage with chestnuts. Trader Joe's carries reasonably priced shelf stable boxes of chestnuts. It's nice to braise the cabbage with a strong spice like carraway or black cumin. Add the chestnuts when you have about an hour left on the cabbage and they will naturally fall apart into the braising liquid.

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Arlington, VA: Last week a chatter wrote in asking for a recipe for chlodnik, a Polish cucumber-beet soup. Here is a recipe from one of my Polish cookbooks. Hope it helps!

1 lb small beets with greens; 2 qts Beef broth; 2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar; 2 cups sour cream, sour milk, or buttermilk; 2 medium cucumbers, peeled thinly sliced; 6 radishes, thinly sliced; 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 1 tablespoon dill weed; 1 tablespoon chopped chives; 1 teaspoon salt; 3 hard cooked eggs, chopped.

Clean beets and greens, including peeling them. Slice beets and chop greens. In a large saucepan, combine beets, greens, broth, and lemon juice/vinegar. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, simmer, partially covered, 30 minutes or until tender. Strain liquid and reserve beets and greens. When liquid is cool, add sour cream/sour milk/buttermilk. Beat with an electric mixer until frothy, 2-3 minutes. Add cooked beets, beet greens, cucumbers, radishes, dill, chives, and salt. Refrigerate 1 hour. Garnish with hard cooked eggs and serve chilled.

Bonnie Benwick: Just beet it! Thanks for following up.

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egg whites: I have come across a few recipes for cakes and Chinese food that call for egg whites. I'm terrible at separating eggs. Could I just buy a pint of egg whites or would it not work the same way?

Bonnie Benwick: There are several brands of liquid egg whites on the market; Eggology's the one I see most often around D.C. And I've whipped them before, with good results. You know, there are lots of ways to easily separate egg yolks from whites, such as gently cracking the egg into a small plastic funnel. Chatters, let's give this cook some options.

Jane Touzalin: On late-night TV you see infomercials for all sorts of egg white-yolk separators. But another consideration is the potential waste. As someone who recently needed a lot of egg whites and ended up with a fridge full of extra yolks, I sympathize with the desire to avoid that.

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Annandale, VA: Hi, All,

Trying to come up with a menu for a backyard high school graduation party for my son. It will probably be about 30 people (adults & kids), start around 3 pm on a mid-June Saturday, and be fairly informal and comfortable. I'm willing to do some cooking in advance, and possibly augment from local stores. I'm leery of anything mayo based due to the possible heat (not sure if the food wll be inside or outside on the screened-in porch). Appetizers can be anything from various dips and possible sushi platters. I am stumped as to what to serve for the meal - side dishes can be chilled grilled veggies, a variety of salads (pasta salad, corn & black bean salad, King Caprese salad, the chickpea salad from the Nourish column looks good!), but what about a main item? My husband has offered to grill, but I don't want him spending the whole time working. There won't be enough people to justify bringing in a caterer to grill, either. Any suggestions? While it doesn't have to be completely gourmet, I would like the menu to be a step up from the typical hot dog/hamburger or deli platter kind of deal. Any ideas would be appreciated!

Dean Gold: Bonelss center cut pork loin will grill up perfectly and can be served warm or cold. If cold, slice very thinly. Rub the loin with cracked black peppercorn, garlic and chopped herbs. Cook over indirect hear until your desired degree of doneness. The DC department of health would suggest 170 degrees and many a chef is happy with 138. Let sit for at least half an hour before slicing.

BBQ sauce or an herbed vinaigrette would be nice to go along.

Lisa Yockelson: Protein, such as hefty chicken breasts or butterflied leg of lam, can be grilled ahead, sliced and served with an herby vinagrette dressing.

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potluck brunch: I'm having a potluck brunch this weekend and would love a few ideas. One friend is bringing a salad, another fruit, and the third french toast. What should I make to fill the gaps? I would prefer meatless please. I don't mind an egg dish, but dont' want to stand at the stove making personal omlettes because my kids will be running around and I need to run after them.

Dean Gold: You can do a "frittata". I butter 4" foil baking cups and fill with cooked veggies: Asparagus, mushrooms, cooked potatoes, sauteed onions etc. Beat eggs with a touch of heavy cream and grana cheese and pour over the eggs. Bake in a 300 degree oven in a hot water bath for 20 or so minutes till set.

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Washington, DC: I have bought pork shoulders before and done a very simple braise with onions, garlic, wine and broth. I then shred the meat and freeze in pint bags. The meat is so usable. Defrost some and add to a spicy sauce for tacos. Or some hoisin for spring rolls. BBQ sauce. Add to tomato sauce. The possibilities are endless.

Bonnie Benwick: Right, right, right.

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Boston, MA: I've started seeing a personal trainer to slim down for my wedding. I'm trying to curb my diet as well but because of the added exercise I'm hungry all the time! I'm not sure when eating more is a good idea because of the calories burned and when its counter productive. I know for dinners high protein is good but I'm wondering about good types of snacks and lunches I can make for myself during the day that aren't counter-productive. Any healthy and filling ideas?

Dean Gold: I keep a container full of peeled carrots, turnips, celery and peeled seeded cukes in the fridge. You cannot really eat enough to make a caloric dent in your day and they are bulky and filling. Drain some non fat Greek yogurt overnight and seson with Zata'ar or Sumac for a dip.

Bonnie Benwick: Good one, Dean. I can tell it's working for you.

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tomatoes: I know this is a bit more work than popping them in the freezer, but I canned tomato sauce for the first time last summer and it was waaay simpler than I thought it would be! 8 months later, I'm still enjoying the bounty.

Bonnie Benwick: Not that much more work, really. And infinitely rewarding, as you have found.

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Cucumber Soup: My biggest summer love is the cold soup. Last night I made Ina Garden's cucumber soup recipe from her back to basics book for the first time and it was delicious. And easy. Next time I'll probably substitute more greek yogurt for the half and half because after I eat her recipes I can hear a sucking sound in my arteries. Now I'd like to try gazpacho. Do you happen to have a good recipe you can recommend? Thanks!

Dean Gold: Gazpacho is more a method than a recipe. These days I like the following:

Chop whatever summery veggies you have {ie red onion, bell peppers of various colors, radish, cucumbers} into a very fine dice. Puree tomatoes and put thru a food mill to remove skin and seeds. Until we get good summer tomatoes, I prefer good canned tomatoes this time of year. Add the diced veggies. Take 1/4 cup of panko per quart of soup and soak it in 1 tablespoon good sherry wine vinegar. Add to the soup with salt, pepper, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. A little Sriracha sauce is great in this.

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Washington, DC: I bought some beautiful golden beets, a couple of small turnips and some sweet potatoes - where do I go from here?

Dean Gold: Peel, cube and par boil just a bit: so the tip of a knife goes only partway thru before meeting resistance. Toss with olive oil, salt & pepper. . Then put the veggies on a cake cooling rack, spread some thyme and rosemary branches and peeled garlic cloves. Roast till all is starting to get golden brown and is cooked thru. Let cool. Remove the garlic cloves and crush the herb leaves into the veggies. Toss with a little sherry wine vinegar, orange juice and more olive oil. Add chopped mint.

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Silver spring, MD: I went to the farmer's market on Sunday and I bought milk, eggs, spinach, asparagus, and a baguette in hopes of making strata this week. However my oven just died. Do you have any recipes for a strata in a Crockpot?

Bonnie Benwick: I don't, but maybe someone out there does. I think you need to get that oven fixed, or resort to ToasterOvenness.

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Outer Banks, NC: Hi Guys,

I love the chats, and I'm hoping someone can help me with a quick question. My family is taking a vacation to the Outer Banks this summer, and we've all been assigned different dishes to make. I'll be making Spaghetti and Meatballs All'Amatriciana (from this recipe). I've made it before, and it's delicious, but it will take a long time to make enough meatballs for 15 plus people. I plan on pre-forming the meatballs, but do you think it would still turn out ok if I cooked the meatballs a few (3-4) days in advance? If so, should I freeze or refrigerate after cooking? Thanks!

Dean Gold: I think cooking then a day or two in advance actually will make the meatballs tastier. Cover them with the sauce even if you need to make extra. Then refrigerate. If you freeze, you will change the texture and the balls will come out drier and crumblier.

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Washington, DC: I found honeysuckle in my backyard and I was wondering if it is edible.

Bonnie Benwick: I used to sip the nectar out of them as a kid; we had a huge swath of them behind the garage in our back yard. Adrian sez: I don't think the leaves, etc., are edible. Wild species are invasive exotic weeds and probably best pulled.

Maybe some chatter/foragers out there today could let us know?

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Dinner help: I've got some fresh lemon/rosemary tagliatelle from the farmer's market for dinner tonight, and I need to think up a quick, vegetarian sauce that will be filling but won't overpower the pasta. I've got spring onions and bok choi to use up in the fridge, but I'm willing to swing by the supermarket on the way home for a few staples. Thoughts?

Dean Gold: If you have garlic and ginger, you can be set with what you have.

Slice the garlic thinly and grate a little or a lot of ginger depending on your preference. Slice the white part of spring onions very thinly into rings, the greens into larger pieces. Cut the bok choi into 1" pieces. Saute the whites in olive oil and a little butter until they begin to taste sweet. Add a splash of white wine or vermouth and cook until evaporated. Add the "stem"ier parts of bok choi and stir fry until tender crisp. Add all the greens, salt and pepper. Add the ginger if you are using it. Add the greens, stir until wilted and turn off the heat.

As you cook the tagliatelle, reheat the sauce. When the Tagliatelle are done, drain {reserve a spoon of the cooking liquid} and add to the pan and let it cook for a minute in the sauce to absorb some of the flavor. Add the cooking liquid if it looks a little dry. Finish with some grated pecorino Toscano and a drizzle of really good olive oil.

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re: rubble buckle: What is rubble buckle??

Bonnie Benwick: We all want to know.

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Spingfield, VA: I'm hosting an evening outdoor wedding rehearsal dinner, and wondering what wines pair well with grilled chicken breast, pulled pork barbeque and sliced beef barbeque. I'll have approximately 90 guests.

Dean Gold: German rieslings, Alsatian gewurztraminers for white, good dry rose or a light chillable red such as a lightweight Valpolicella. Degani is a great Valpolicella choice in this style. Also a dry or off dry Lambrusco- Cleto Chiarli makes two- Vecchio Modena {Very dry} and Enrico Chialdini that both would be super and not at all expensive.

Jason Wilson: The standard advice is Zinfandel, but I'm with Dean, I like a light red, possibly a Zweigelt or Rhone red or Bardolino. Or if you want bigger, maybe a Spanish Garnacha.

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San Francisco: why can't I get sweet potato fries crispy? I toss them with olive oil and kosher salt, then into a 400 degree oven for... a while. They taste great, but would it require unhealthy additions/frying to achieve crispness? Thanks. WashPo is the best.

Dean Gold: Do you lay them flat on a baking pan or are you using a rack to suspend them above the pan? Use a cake cooling rack and make sure the fries are well spaced so they don't steam each other. Also pre heat the baking pan.

If that fails, duck fat frying will do the crispy trick! And I know of a particular restaurateur in DC who loves and cookes with lots of duck fat and has a total cholesterol of well under 150. But please don't take this as medical advice!

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give up meat entirely to make any difference in the environment: My chicken causes much less damage to the environment than your SUV!

Dean Gold: Actually, farm runoff from commercially raised chickens and pork in the Chesapeake watershed cause about the same amount of bay pollution as does our use of lawn care products. So stop using chemicals and fertilizer, organic or not, on your lawn. And eat chickens from folk who responsibly reuse their chicken waste instead of piling it into mountains of waste waiting to be washed into the bay.

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buttermilk: They don't freeze well, but once you make buttermilk pancakes you might not want to go back to regular ones!

Lisa Yockelson: Agree!

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Petworth: Buttermilk: Biscuits, Red Velvet Cake, Chlodnik (cold beet and buttermillk soup)

Lisa Yockelson: Let's be sure to add a buttermilk butter cake (similar to a pound cake) to the list!

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Non-judgey vegan: But still a little preachy. Why do you have to put a label on my dietary choices to Quantify my dedication (half way there!)? I make and eat tasty nutritious food which includes a broad range of meats, vegetables and grains. Some days I don't have meat, some I do. I don't ask for your approval validation or label.

Bonnie Benwick: We're all holding hands, now. Singing and swaying, in peaceful harmony.

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bento boxes follow up: Be sure to call before you go to any of the shops on the list. I know Arise in College Park has closed. Some of the others may have moved or closed.

Bonnie Benwick: Good point. I think Arise is the only nonstarter. Thanks,

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Missed Tom's Chat!: Can chatters help? My boyfriend's father is visiting us tonight and we're trying to think of a good place for dinner. He's in his late 80's, so nothing too hip. Just good, reasonably priced, basic food. We ate at Busboys and Poets last night. He liked the food but proclaimed it "way too loud!" Anything in DC or Northern Virginia would be fine... as long as the noise is low!

Bonnie Benwick: I vote for Palena or Corduroy.

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New Orleans: When I make chicken enchiladas, I put the chicken filling in corn tortillas, roll them up, and put the enchiladas in a casserole dish for baking. But I find that corn tortillas are really too brittle for this; they tend to split when I roll them up. I'm left with a haphazard mush of chicken filling and broken tortillas. Is there a step I'm missing here or something I'm doing wrong?

Dean Gold: Dip the tortillas in warmed oil or lard, or in the sauce before filling and rolling. Just a quick dip or they will turn to mush.

Bonnie Benwick: Sometimes I give them a quick roll/dunk in the enchilada sauce I'm using.

Bonnie Benwick: You can also just heat them for a few seconds in a dry skillet.

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Fairfax, VA: I have an abundance of corn on the cob. My husband purchased 10 ears and then went out of town on business for the week.

Can I roast it? If so, how?

Other ideas or suggestions? Thanks!

Dean Gold: Melt butter in a saute pan large enough to hold a couple of ears of corn. Add lime juice to taste, ground chiles. Grill husked corn till it starts to brown and then roll in the butter mix and sprinkle with salt. Eat! Lick fingers too!!

Bonnie Benwick: You could make a corn-y vegetable broth with the stripped ears and freeze it, good for chowders.

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Rockville, MD: While I prefer doing the pork in a charcoal grill, I've done it on a gas grill too. Here are some suggestions for the gas grill. It is a 3+ hour process but much of it will be untended:

1. Make a foil packet filled with damp hickory chips and poke some holes in the top. 2. Get shoulder to room temp and rub with S&P 3. Put a burner on low (ideal cooking temp is 225-250)Put foil packet on burner and pork on the side that is not on (you can put the pork on the grate or in a pan). 4. Cook till internal temp is 195-200 (I believe that is the range where collagen melts and creates moistness) 5. Let rest for 15-30 minutes. 6. Pull, chop the crusty bits and mix into meat. 7. Season (I prefer E. Carolina sauce b/c I think it cuts the fat better).

Good luck

Bonnie Benwick: Pork butt, the stuff of inspiration.

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Alex., VA: In general, what amount of dried beans, cooked, equals a 15 oz. can of beans? The can measurement includes the liquid, right? B/c when I've tried a direct substitution, 15 oz. of cooked, dried beans is more than the amount of beans in a can. Any help on this?

Dean Gold: A 15 oz can of beans is typically 2 cups or a little more of beans. So I would guess 3/4 cup of dried beans would cook into the same amount. Without all the added salt!

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Burke, VA: To Boston, who wants to grow mint. Be very careful where you plant it! Mint is very invasive and will take over any garden patch.

Jane Touzalin: I've now got mine surrounded by buried edging and it's very effective. Before, I was constantly yanking mint plants out of the lawn.

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re: chocolate bread: For the chatter who wants to make chocolate bread, I super duperly recommend Nigella Lawson's chocolate loaf. It's insanely great.

Bonnie Benwick: I second that emotion.

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Washington, DC: What is Jason's favorite cocktail to pair with Chinese food?

Jason Wilson: I don't get too crazy about pairing cocktails with food - it's very rare when the pairing works. But with Chinese food, you could maybe try a tiki drink. After all, during the mid-20th-century tiki heyday, so-called "Polynesian food" was really just Chinese food. You might also try some of the beer cocktails I wrote about a few weeks back?

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veggie burger: If I combine rice, mashed veg and cheese together, will it stay together in a patty, or do I need something else to help bind it?

Dean Gold: I'd add a beaten egg to enough mix to make 8 burgers. And I won't get all the vegetarians upset by saying something like add some bacon or duck fat either!

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French Press Question: I've had a few French presses in my day. Sometimes I drop them, or they crack while being cleaned, and I have to get a replacement.

My current carafe is holding up nicely. It's a Bodum, purchased at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I'm speaking of the carafe itself. The handle is another story. A few days ago, the ring that connects the handle to teh carafe snapped at the joint, rendering the handle useless. I now have to pick up the carafe itself while pouring the coffee. This makes me do a little hot-dance with my fingers, as I pour the coffee quickly enough not to burn my fingers.

Yes, I use an oven mitt sometimes, but I'm wondering if there's an easier way to "handle" this situation without having to pay for an entirely new French press.

Dean Gold: Ours is held together with the creative use of pliers and the pot needs to be held at a particular angle or you will be wearing the coffee. We're too cheap to buy another one as well. How about using some wire to attach the handle to the upper ring that holds the carafe?

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grocery store nursery: I have seen zucchini plants for sale, but they are so closely packed together that many of the stems are broken. Would they still grow if I planted them, or would the loss of their stems/leaves prohibit growth?

Bonnie Benwick: Adrian says: If you have at last one pair of leaves intact at the base, you'll be okay. Otherwise, find some better ones.

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sriracha: I bought a bottle for a new (and disappointing) recipe, but now I have a whole lot left over. Please give me ideas for using it up. (I know it is a good dipping sauce for shrimp, but that's not something I have very often.) Thanks.

Dean Gold: I use Sriracha whenever I want to perk up a recipe. Used sparingly, it adds saltiness and acidity without a lot of heat. It's great in soups, stews cream sauces/dishes and naything with canned tomatoes. I would start with about a 1/2 teaspoon per quart of liquid to start. A little added to mayo makes for a nice dipping sauce when combined with ginger or garlic.

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Bonnie Benwick: Dean forgot to say: Add some good olive oil to the gazpacho.

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Reconstructed and deconstructed: I understand what deconstructed is, as in say ravioli. How then is the term "reconstructed" applied to recipes?

Bonnie Benwick: In this case, it's applied by a 17-year-old who's just experimenting.

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Honeysuckle and beets!: I used to suck honeysuckle nectar as a kid, too! In fact even now if I run across a plant (the best smell of summer, in my opinion), I might sneak a little taste.

Anyway, unrelated: beets. I bought a bunch, like, a month or more ago (I don't even really remember). They've been in the fridge since. And they seem OK -- still firm, no apparent spots or anything. Should they still be good after so long?

Dean Gold: Absolutely. Beets are a storage veggie. As long as they are not developing black or soft spots, they are good to go. And if they are, you can carve them out and still use the rest. Mold is another story, if they mold, toss them out.

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Talking about mint: Reminds me - my spearmint didn't survive the winter (container on the deck) but the chocolate mint did. I remember mint being pervasive as a kid in my dad's garden so why does it not survive in a container?

Bonnie Benwick: Adrian Higgins says -- usually because the dryness inherent in a neglected container causes stress.

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Dupont Circle, D.C.: I need a cocktail for Lost viewing on Sunday. The only liquor I have right now is grappa and white rum so no need to worry about what I have on hand because I'll probably have to go shopping anyway. I'm thinking something that says tropical island, warping of the time-space continuum and daddy issues. Ideas?

Jason Wilson: Well, nothing says "time-space continuum and daddy issues" like grappa and rum, right? I just suggested tiki drinks to the other reader, and I'm thinking that might be the call for Lost, too. Since I've never been able to follow the show myself, one or two Zombies and I might actually understand what's going on...

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Apple Butter: I ggogled "sweet apple butter with maple syrup" and got this.

Bonnie Benwick: Okay, a few of you have sent this so far.

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Honeysuckle: Sure it's edible, if you're an insect.

Seriously though, my "Cooking with Flowers" cookbook includes recipes for carnations, chrysanthemums, dandelions, day lilies, elderflowers, marigolds, nasturtiums, roses, squash flowers, violets, and yuccas. No honeysuckle.

Bonnie Benwick: :@

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Springfield, VA: On a whim, I bought a ridiculously large can of tomatoes at Costco since it was such a good deal.

I'm thinking Marcela Hazan's tomato sauce, maybe a ragu, and then chili if there is still tomatoes left. Would it be better to cook the sauces and then freeze, or would it be okay to freeze portions of tomatoes and then make the sauce later? I would imagine tomato texture wouldn't be an issue from long cooking, but I was more concerned about the flavor.

I could have friends over for a massive pasta dinner, but it would be easier to be able to freeze it into portions for use later.

Lisa Yockelson: On occasion, I prepare tomato sauce for the freezer in large quantities and, yes, any of Marcella Hazan's recipes would be an excellent resource for formulas and inspiration. On reheating tomato sauce, I add a little slug of fresh olive oil and some chopped herbs--delicious!

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bulgur #2: Lots of grocery stores now sell bulgur in their international food section. I've seen it at Rodmans, Safeway and Giant. The problem is they have different varieties, #1 fine, #2 medium, #2 coarse, #3 extra coarse, etc. Which size is good to use for hot cereals and which would be good for tabouleh? And what is the difference between cracked wheat and bulgar wheat?

Dean Gold: Bulgur is a whole grain or is partially debranned. Cracked wheat can be from a more refined or non refined source depending on the maker. Bulgur is also a hard wheat, typically semolina.

For Tabbouleh, use #2 coarse or #2 fine. I prefer to cover with boiling water for 5-10 minutes to soften and then drain and press out the excess water.

Bonnie Benwick: Lezzet in Rockville has an impressive array of fine to coarse bulgurs.

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re: pork shoulder: Would you put on the rub and let sit before you cut it into cubes or would the flavor be better to cut and then swish the rub around?

Bonnie Benwick: Rub on the whole thing. I wouldn't bother with cutting it up.

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Philadelphia: I have several food allergies and I like to have people over for dinner. I don't want to impose my food limitations on guests but also don't want to eat something different from my guests, which somehow seems inhospitable and awkward. So I've come up with a general solution--serve lots of small plates of food and then everyone can pick and choose what they want. I've done this with Lebanese food and that worked great and also with tapas. But I need some new ideas--can you suggest cuisines that will lend themselves to this type of entertaining? Also, although my husband enjoys this approach he still feels like--for guests--there ought to be a focal point to the meal (i.e., a meat or fish main dish) and wondered if you think that's necessary or if lots of different foods (some meat, some dairy, etc.) seems ok. Thanks for your help.

Dean Gold: I really prefer more small plates to one large central entree. We offer family style dining where only one or two of the dishes out of 12 to 15 are "entrees". By the time you have worked thru a lot of small plates and maybe a psta or two, you don't miss a big meat and potatoes dish.

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Rockville, MD: Re: French press

I kept breaking French presses so now I use an effective, though not elegant method:

1. Boil water in pyrex measuring cup. 2. Stir ground beans in and let sit for 5 min. 3. Pour into cup through a fine mesh strainer.

Bonnie Benwick: I'm publishing this answer, knowing that I'll hear about it from Editor Joe, who is, in this office, Mr. Coffee.

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Salt Cod: I have been playing around with salt cod lately and can't find the best way to remove the salt quickly and rehydrate the fish. Any no fail methods you know of or is this a 12 hour soak and replace water deal?

Thanks!

Dean Gold: None that I know of. In fact, I usually take 48 hours and chance the water 4-8 times. Please realize that most salt cod in the US is from Western Atlantic Cod which is dangerously overfished. NOAA says that there is no sustainable populations of cod in the Western Atlantic.

In Italy, shops set up a contraption where the cod is in a pan under a tap and the cod pan is over a larger drain pan. The water trickles continuously.

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Locally sourced: Rest Eve, the Majestic, and Food Matters in Alexandria all use locally sourced ingredients. For those not familiar, here is FM's site.

Eve makes its own bottled water and Food Matters recycles everything and has its grease taken by a biodiesel maker a few times a week.

As a bonus, the food is great, too!

Bonnie Benwick: Good add, thanks.

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Corn tortillas: I soften them by covering with a damp towel for a few seconds in the microwave - works great.

Bonnie Benwick: That works.

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Dinner help again:: Oh my god, that sounds perfect, Dean! One follow-up: would parmesean work as a sub for the pecorino?

Dean Gold: Reggaino Parmigiano is much creamier and sweeter than the pecorino. When I am feeling Venetian I lean to grana or reggiano. But the Tuscan in me loves the sharpness of pecorino Toscano. Note that Pecorino Romano is something else entirely and not at all suited to the recipes I have given today. It need much stronger flavors to work! It would be great with the meatballs a chatter posted about.

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to jason: give me a savory drink to mix up

Jason Wilson: Well, since you've asked so so nicely, here you are a few. Get cherry tomatoes, cilantro, tequila, and Cointreau and make a Drinko de Gallo Or, if you're in more of a dill mood, get some aquavit and try a Complement Cocktail. And if that doesn't work here's my own favorite Bloody Mary variation, the Veggie Red Snapper.

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Washington, DC: I'm planning to make a "spring" salad with grapefruit, fennel, endive, radicchio, and walnuts. I'm not sure what would make a good dressing. Maybe something sweet?

Dean Gold: Almond oil, lemon & lime juice, mint, a hint of Dijon mustard might be nice. If the almosd oil is very intensly lavored, add some neutral veggie oil to balance.

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GREAT article on Meatless Mondays! It made my day to see the Washington Post taking the movement seriously.: Oh lord, if there's "A Movement" you can count me out. Baaaaaaaaaaaa.

Bonnie Benwick: Mooo-vement.

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I just have to say: I miss Joe & Jane but am loving Dean on today's chat. You are a font of cooking knowledge!!!

Dean Gold: I just make this stuff up as I go along!

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frozen shrimp: I have a bag of frozen shrimp (shell/tail on) in the freezer and a surplus of mint in the garden. Would that be gross together? Do you have other ideas for frozen shrimp?

Dean Gold: Saute some garlic {with anchovies if you like}. When the garlic just starts to get golden and aromatic, add in abundant chopped mint and a little lemon or lime juice. Separately, saute the just shrimp to heat and then toss in the sauce.

For a Thai touch, add ground browned rice powder: toast rice in a pan till golden and grind in a spice mill until it is just short of a powder.

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Arlington, Va S: I enjoyed Jason Wilson's spirits article today. I haven't had much of a chance to try micro-distilled spirits, but have been planning on stopping at the Finger Lakes Distilling Company (on Seneca Lake) after having read about them in a beer blog. I know they aren't available around here, but have you any experience with their products?

Next trip to the Rochester area I plan on beer, wine, and spirit stops! I'll have to be sure to make safe driving arrangements...

Jason Wilson: I tasted the Finger Lakes spirits a while back, and I liked their gin and rye whiskey. Let me know what you think after you visit the distillery!

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Washington, DC: I'm curious. What are your favorite sandwiches?

Dean Gold: Tony Luke's Roast Pork and Broccoli Raab, Katz Pastrami on Rye with lots of pickles and pickled green tomatoes on the side, and a Schwarma or Felafel from Max's in Wheaton.

Jane Touzalin: I'm a fan of the corned beef sandwich on marble rye at Bernie's in Fairfax City. It's pretty much identical to the corned beef sandwich at Wagshal's in the District.

Bonnie Benwick: Louie's turkey sandwich at Earl's along Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn/Clarendon. And of course that Wagshal's smoked brisket sandwich. A killer.

Jason Wilson: Cheesesteak from John's Roast Pork in Philly. Or a roast pork with sharp provolone and spinach from DiNic's, also in Philly.

Dean Gold: If you add make at home sandwiches, I love Ak-Mak or matzoh, mashed avocado, hot sauce and ground fleur de sel. My favorite late night snack!

Lisa Yockelson: I'm an old-fashioned girl: today I had a nice homemade tuna salad on homemade whole wheat soda bread--with arugula leaves nestling the tuna salad.

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Maple apple butter : I get it from here.

Bonnie Benwick: Gotcha.

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Buttermilk: Buttermilk makes the beest chocolate cake, for the person who has buttermilk to use up.

Lisa Yockelson: I'll second that!

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Washington, DC: I have some special guests coming for lunch next week and want to prepare something special. I was considering a crab salad "tower" and asparagus soup, but now I'm rethinking the crab salad, as that would require a lot of endgame preparation. Instead I'm thinking individual crab souffles. Do you have any recipes or advice for making that?

Jane Touzalin: What am I missing here? Seems to me the crab salad can be made in advance, and as far as "endgame preparation" goes, souffle is pretty intensive. I'd stick with the salad idea.

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Whole wheat flour: I've been making bread weekly for the past year or so from Peter Reinhart's whole grain bread cookbook. I find that whole wheat bread flour makes a difference (I buy organic ww bread flour from Bethesda Co-op's bulk section). Also, for baking, I generally replace AP flour in recipes with whole wheat pastry flour (also Bethesda Co-op). White whole wheat flour is great for pizza dough -- I make the Gourmet cookbook's pizza dough recipe with it, and it's great! The real key to replacing your AP flour with whole wheat flour is to get a variety of whole wheat flours -- the basic WW flour is probably what I use least!

Also, for the soon-to-be-bride on the training program -- I find that establishing an eating routine helps a lot (I lost 30 lbs over five years, and have kept it off for the last two). My weekday routine -- I always eat breakfast at 8 (oatmeal with honey, sprinkled with high fiber cereal). Then I wait until noon to have lunch (usually salad with tofu). Then I have a snack sometime between 3 and 4 (TJ's nonfat plain greek yogurt with honey and high fiber cereal), then I eat pretty much what I want for dinner, at about 7. As a side note, I've been eating Fiber One original cereal, which has 60 calories in a half-cup and a whopping 14 grams of fiber -- by itself it probably wouldn't taste that great, but sprinkled on oatmeal and yogurt, it is crunchy-good and really, really filling!

Lisa Yockelson: Peter's book is a great resource for whole grain baking, to be sure. I use a portion of 100% whole wheat flour (organic) in some bread recipes, and integrate whole wheat pastry flour in some--but not all--quick breads, especially waffle batters, where it shines beautifully.

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Singing Kumbaya: I have always loved vegetarian recipes: I subscribe to Vegetarian Times even though I eat meat. But the increasing militarianism of many vegetarians is making me annoyed with all of them! Why did we ever have to divide the world into them and us anyway?

Bonnie Benwick: I blame Thanksgiving.

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To the non-judgy vegetarian: Don't let the responses get to you -- I knew the meat-eaters would immediately get defensive (it doesn't take much).

Bonnie Benwick: We are supposed to be swaying and singing, remember?

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MISSED TOM"S Chat: My octogenarian aunt's favorite restaurant is The Fourth Estate at the National Press Club now open to public. She likes the atmosphere and the noise level is down. Even when they are completely full you can't hear anyone at the next table and you can carry a conversation in a normal tone.

Jane Touzalin: Perfect, and Tom Sietsema points out that the chef was the top student in her class when she graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 2001.

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Bonnie Benwick: Wow, that hour flew by. Thanks to Dean Gold, Lisa Yockelson, Jason Wilson. Chatters who earned books today: Boulder gets "The Wild Vine," and Falls Church, who got that whole pork-shoulder thread going today.

Remember to send your mailing info to food@washpost.com.

Next week, real smoked brisket for your Memorial Day grilling pleasure, and so much more. Thanks for joining us.

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