Udderly Nuts Almond Milk, produced in Washington at Union Kitchen, does not contain carrageenan, the seaweed derivative used as a thickener. (Ryan Keating)

Philly! It’s less than three hours from downtown Washington by car and the fifth location to make food critic Tom Sietsema’s list of America’s Best Food Cities. He’s got five more to go, then he’ll rank his findings. Think you can figure out the final five? Well, not even Tom is sure what they’ll be.

Other highlights in Food this week: Emily Horton spends years developing the perfect recipe for ratatouille and reveals all; Unearthed columnist Tamar Haspel explains why food and philosophy don’t mix; and we remind you that the clock is ticking: The deadline to enter the 2015 Top Tomato recipe contest is Sunday at midnight. Find the basic rules and helpful tips here. It’s one of our favorite features of the year, and it’s always amazing to see what our creative readers come up with.

Feeling up to speed? Then plan on checking in at noon for today’s Free Range chat. Emily and Tamar will be there, as will the usual gang of culinary experts, so it’s bound to be a great hour. Fortunately for me, there’s also bound to be a leftover question or two afterwards, like this one from last week’s chat:

I’m lactose intolerant and grew up drinking acidophilus milk (i.e., Lactaid). I switched to soy milk to reduce milk fat, then switched to almond milk for improved taste. Now I hear I’m doing the unhealthy thing by consuming carrageenan. What gives?

A disclaimer: I’m no nutritionist. But I’m aware that carrageenan is a seaweed derivative that’s a common thickener in a wide variety of products, almond milk included. The past few years have seen some alarms raised about the possibility that carrageenan is bad for your gut. As with many such situations, there’s good information and misinformation, defenders and dissenters, and people on both sides who are sure they’re right. But I find it significant that the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit watchdog organization that says its mission is “to protect public health and the environment,” has determined that “overall, carrageenan is of lower concern in food.” In case you’re interested, the organization rates thousands of foods, including almond milk, based on nutrition, ingredient and processing concerns. You can check out their ratings here.

But you know what? If you’re wary, this is an easy problem to solve, because not all almond milks contain carrageenan. And even better, almond milk is one of those products that’s dead simple to make at home — like ricotta, paneer, mozzarella and cottage cheese, only even easier. You just need water, almonds, a blender and a little time. (But no additives, unless you want to put in a little honey or vanilla.) And Google, to find complete directions.

Whether homemade or store-bought, almond milk is pretty versatile, though it won’t perform just as cow’s milk does. Check out our Recipe Finder for great recipes that will put your almond milk to good use; I’ve listed some below. And check out next week’s Food for a couple more.

Dark Chocolate Mousse

Rum-Glazed Pineapple With Almond Milk Sherbet

Berry Almond Smoothie

Cara Cara Orange Smoothies

Banana-Berry Nut Muffins With Chia Seeds

Garnet Yam Cake With Brown Sugar Sauce and Candied Pecans

Tater Shortcakes