Put unripened avocados into a paper bag to hurry them along

The Washington Post Food staff and cookbook author Cathy Barrow recently answered questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.

Q: I have three rock-hard avocados that aren’t softening. Are there any tricks, or just a lot of patience?

A: Have you tried putting them in a brown paper bag? – Olga Massov

A: How long have you had them for? Truthfully the only trick I can think of is, as Olga mentioned, the brown paper bag, and even that one requires some patience if they’re really solid. – Kari Sonde

A: You can also add an apple to the bag. Apples (as well as avocados) give off ethylene, which prompts ripening.

The bag helps trap it, but the apple will provide a bit more. – Becky Krystal

Ripe avocado on a wooden board in the studio. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

Q: In my quest to make everything that I have always wanted to make but didnt have time to try, I have attempted arepas twice. I bought the arepa cornmeal and followed the directions; they were  not great.

Does anyone have any secrets to try? The recipes mention the batter should be on the moist side and I think mine may have been too dry. I am willing to try again!

A: I love arepas! I’ve only made them once, so my only “secrets” to share are to make sure you’re using masarepa – which it sounds like you are – add a bit of oil to the dough (most recipes call for this), and don’t be afraid to add more water, a bit at a time, until the dough is just a little bit sticky. It’s a little like the consistency of Play-doh.

Then fry them in butter, which is like a moisture insurance policy. – Daniela Galarza

Q: What is the best way to warm up lobster without turning it to rubber? Or should you just let it go and eat it cold, or let it naturally warm up to room temperature? Something inside my head tells me that even 30 seconds in the microwave would be a big mistake.

A: I would eat it cold. I think it would get rubbery if you tried to reheat. If you absolutely cannot do cold lobster, maybe drizzle warm melted butter on it to warm it up? – OM

Q: I save up my raw food scraps in the freezer – root ends, trimmings, peels, all the parts of the veggies that aren’t usable as such.

I use it to make vegetable broth in my Instant Pot, adding garlic and some dried herbs and spices. Then I wonder how to use all that homemade vegetable broth. I do cook lentils in it, but we can only eat so much lentils, and it’s good for soup, but summer is not a big soup time of year for us.

A: Use it instead of water to flavor rice! – KS

A: Yes, to add to Kari’s suggestion, you could use it specifically to flavour risotto.

Q: How does overproofing affect the outcome of making sourdough? Is the effect only aesthetic (less oven spring) or is taste affected also?

A: You may end up with bread that is dense, doesn’t rise/bake well, overly sour. It’ll be edible for sure, and no reason to toss overproofed dough, but just so you manage your own expectations. – OM

A: By the way, in his new New World Sourdough, Bryan Ford recommends not scoring overproofed bread and just baking it seam-side-up to let it open naturally. – BK