Tuesday, October 3, 2023
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Lacking leeks? Try these substitutes

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

Q: What is/are a good substitute(s) for leeks in a recipe?

A: Leeks are relatively mild, so in most cases, thinly sliced sweet onions are best – or shallots. Depending on what you are making, you could also try other onions or scallions.
Ann Maloney

Q: What were your favourite food-cooking-related gifts received (or sent!) this year?

A: I got two large bags of homemade granola from a friend. It is delicious, not too sweet, toasty and nutty. It brought a big smile to my face. I sent spicy cheddar cheese straws, but instead of straws, we cut them into bite-size stars – like cookies – and everyone seemed to love that.

A: We got a Turkish teatime giftbox from a cafe/shop we love that included not only the tea and teacups, but also tea snacks! I gave vanilla bean paste to someone who’s an avid baker and she loved it.
Kari Sonde

Ricotta gnocchi with leeks and peas. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

A: I sent a friend who is dealing with her first holiday since both her mother and live-in mother-in-law died one of those From Roy panettones, and given that I thought the one we got for ourselves was the most delicious one I had ever tasted, I’m sure that’ll be my favourite gift sent!
Joe Yonan

A: I gifted myself some Jasper Hill Farm cheese boxes – wow. I received a cake from Red Truck Bakery. Also fantastic. I sent Lou Malnati’s deep-dish pizza to friends and family with kids and folks stuck at home with covid. Those went over big.
Becky Krystal

Q: I have been making a wonderful cheesecake for a number of years except for one thing – the crust is always soggy. No matter what I do to not make the crust not soggy (longer baking time for the crust or reducing the amount of butter) it still gets soggy. The main thing with this cheesecake is that it is very voluminous. The height of it goes to the very top of the springform pan whereas commercially made cheesecakes and other recipes are half or less than half of the height. I make other, less-voluminous cheesecakes, but the crust is still soggy. I am at my wits end.

I started out by wrapping the springform pan with foil, but when I took it out of the oven, I noticed that water had collected inside the foil. I changed that up by putting the pan in a silicone barrier, so no water touches the pan at all but to no avail. Still soggy. The only reason I can think of now is that the volume of the cheesecake is pressing down on the crust and forcing liquid into the crust.

A: It does sound like maybe your springform pan is the issue? Even with the foil, you may still be getting leakage. I had this problem, and it took me getting a new pan to figure it out.

I don’t know if it would work with this recipe because you like the height, but another option is to do a very long bake at a very low temp. In that case you don’t need the water bath because the oven will not get above the temperature at which the egg proteins start to cause problems.

Q: I eat local as much as possible. I wonder about fish which has traveled to more countries than I have plus the treatment of the workers/employees overseas and in the United States (US). Outside of a CSA, what options exist?

A: For fish, you’ll want to check out Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, where you can search for a type of fish you want to eat and the most ethical producers.

Q: I have a lot of small, cayenne-size dried peppers that are really hot. I don’t remember the variety I planted. Can I use them to make chilli crisp? If so, how? If not, what can I do with the peppers?

A: Dried peppers will last more than a year in your pantry, so no need to use them up right away! For a riff on chilli crisp, I would fry one or two thinly sliced shallots and four thinly sliced cloves garlic in a cup of peanut or neutral oil until barely toasted – don’t fry until browned, or the residual heat will cause them to burn – then add all at once one to three tablespoons each: fresh minced ginger, crushed dried chillies, cracked Sichuan peppercorns, chopped peanuts or cashews. Season to taste with salt.

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