Food chat: Here’s how to get frozen veggies to brown

THE WASHINGTON POST – The Washington Post Food staff recently answered questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.

Q: I’ve been making grain bowls using frozen veggies a lot over the past few weeks. But I’m wondering if there is any way to roast frozen veggies the way I would with fresh broccoli or Brussels sprouts. I assume that there is just too much moisture in the frozen veg and that they’d never brown-up.

A: I cut thawed Brussels sprouts in half, and put them in a pan, all spread out, with any fat. Cook them over relatively low heat, and enough moisture will gradually come out of them and then they’ll start to brown. Not exactly like fresh, but not bad at all. – Tamer Haspel

Q: What’s the best non-nutty cheese substitute? The coconut stuff just doesn’t have the same bite as a really good cheddar. And nutritional yeast bears only a passing resemblance to Parmesan. Am I missing something?

A: My favourite nut-free vegan cheeses are Chao, which is based on fermented tofu; and Violife. Both use coconut oil, but if you haven’t tried them you should. – Joe Yonan

Q: Do you have suggestions on what to use instead of a Dutch oven when baking sourdough? Most recipes I’ve seen call for one to help with steam, but unfortunately I don’t have access to one right now. I have a big pot that would likely work, but I haven’t been able to find out the temperature that’s oven-safe. Any other ideas on what I could use instead?

A: I’ve been using a loaf tin. For that steam-crackle crust, I brush a thin layer of water on top of the dough, fashion a dome on top of it with foil and tightly seal the edges around the lip of the tin. Take the foil off after like 20 minutes or so. – Kari Sonde

Q: I’d like to try making my own tortillas. Can you recommend what to look for? Does it need to be cast iron?

A: I’ve used both wood and cast iron and much prefer the latter. The weight really helps press those tortillas! They’re so cheap in Latin markets, and even online. – JY

Q: I love the roasted Brussels sprouts I get in restaurants, but I can’t seem to reproduce them at home, and I suspect it’s because the restaurants have access to uniformly small sprouts. The packages I can find all have at least half huge ones. What to do? I don’t want to buy two or three packages and sort until I have a uniform batch.

A: When I roast them, I cut or slice them until they are uniform in size. That helps with even roasting time. Also, I love to put a tiny bit of sugar and lemon juice – that helps with the caramelisation. – Ann Maloney