THE WASHINGTON POST – Writer, professional cook and recipe developer Julia Clancy recently joined The Washington Post Food staff to answer questions about all things edible. Here are the edited excerpts from that chat.
Q: Lately, I’ve been able to buy chicken at the grocery store, and I always save the bones in the freezer to make stock. I put onions, garlic, celery and carrots in the pot when I’m making stock, but I’ve never added the tough cauliflower and broccoli stems, I worry that they will give a bitter taste. What do you think?
A: Yeah, I tend to stay away from cruciferous veg in a general stock. Maybe if you were planning to make a cauliflower or broccoli soup. Otherwise, I think the flavour might be too strong. – Becky Krystal (BK)
Q: I obtained a starter from someone on my local Buy Nothing FB group and yesterday I baked my first two loaves. It was gorgeous and amazing. My family ate it up happily, but I do not feel I’m getting the proper acclaim so just braggin’ on myself here! Also, a question – I’m working hard to reduce disposable plastic use at home. What did home bakers use to cover stuff before the plastic wrap era?
A: Congrats on your beautiful sourdough loaves! Is your question about plastic wrap alternatives in general, or about a sustainable swap for covering proving dough so it doesn’t dry out or develop a skin? For the latter, a clean, damp, yet well-rung-out kitchen towel draped over the proving bowl or basket is a method that works well for me. For the former, I use a lot of Bees Wrap – it gets more pliable the more you use it. – JC
Q: I opened my pantry this morning to discover that an onion has some four-inch-long green sprouts, which was a shock (but impressive). Can I just cut those off and still use it? Or should I toss?
A: Don’t toss! It’s totally fine to use. It might taste bitter and fibrous, but cooked is fine. – Joe Yonan (JY)
Q: I too have an onion (Peruvian sweet?) which has sprouted. I’ve been just letting it go on because it looks pretty. Could I take it outside and plant it? Would it continue to make onions?
A: Yes you can! I haven’t done this, but my understanding is that the best way is to break the bulb carefully into the individual small onions that are each attached to a single sprout, leaving the root end attached to each piece. You can try to root them in water before planting, or plant them in wet soil and keep the moist to root. – JY
Q: How do we put lemon halves into a lemon squeezer?
A: With the cut side down. Sometimes after I do the initial squeeze, I’ll turn them over and do it again, just to get extra juice out, but the main squeeze (so to speak!) should happen with the cut size down, facing the holes. – JY
Q: Stuck at home and I’m hoping to try to make spaetzle. I have a ricer and a box grater, but no special spaetzle tool. I’ve also researched the Internet and have seen mixed results without the spaetzle tool. Do you have any tips?
A: The box grater might be a messy process, since the large holes are on a slight slant. A rice could become sticky. I would instead try pushing the dough through the holes of a slotted spoon or a colander with large holes. – JC
Q: For some reason lentils are one of the shortages in this pandemic. I found a bag of dried lentils in my pantry. I would like to cook them in my slow cooker before using in a recipe. How? ratio water/broth to lentils. How long to cook?
A: What colour are these lentils? Brown/green/olive drab, I assume? You really don’t need the slow cooker for lentils, because they cook so quickly on the stovetop! 2:1 ratio of water to lentils, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cook uncovered 20-30 minutes. – JY
Q: A neighbour gifted us with Florida oranges, which I juiced (wow!), but I now have this lovely pulp left behind. Surely there is something I can do with it, but what? Can I incorporate it into jams? Baking? Something else?
A: Sure, I think you’re on the right track with jams or baking, as you might, say, carrots in a quick bread or muffin. Really simple would be to just use it in a smoothie. – BK
Q: I bought a giant London Broil on sale, but now that I have it home it seems too thick for most typical recipes.
What best to do with it? I’m stumped on what method of cooking it’s suited for – low heat roasting/slow-cooking/fast sear etc. Any great ideas for this big hunk
A: London Broil, because it’s so lean, does well with a long marinade (12 to 24 hours) and a slow cooking method. It would be great in a beef stew (cut into one-inch cubes), or cut into large pieces and braised in a slow cooker until tender (serve over buttered rice or add to tacos). – JC