Cookbook author Cathy Barrow recently joined the Washington Post staff to answer questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.
Q: When I squeeze lemon juice, I hate to throw the whole shell into the compost, but I haven’t found a good way to keep the shavings of peel from them (I use a vegetable peeler) from drying out in the freezer. Any recommendations?
A: Zest the lemon using a vegetable peeler and wrap the swaths of peel tightly in plastic wrap, then put it in a zip-close bag in the freezer. Air is the enemy here, so wrap tightly. — Cathy Barrow
Q: Can you recommend a way to enjoy squash flowers that does not involve deep frying? Do the flowers themselves have flavor or are they just a vessel for the stuffing and deep frying? We have a rather large squash plant that was supposed to be something different and appears to require a second plant for pollination. So, before I rip it out, I’d like to play a little with the flowers, if we can.
A: They have a really nice, mild squash flavor and definitely do not require frying! One of my favorite ways to use them is to stuff them into a quesadilla — it’s traditional street food in Mexico City, and just perfection. You can also just use them as a raw garnish on a salad or soup, stir them into risotto, lots of other things. I’ve stuffed them with goat cheese and then lightly steamed them, serving them simply dressed in a little tomato sauce; that’s pretty incredible. — Joe Yonan
Q: Do you have any recommendations for a gluten-free cookbook I could use that would result in kid-friendly meals? I’m finding gluten-free eating to be tough with picky eaters.
A: Jacqueline Mallorca’s “The Wheat-Free Cook” might be just the ticket for you. — Bonnie S. Benwick
Q: I recently saw an advertisement for a fried chicken sandwich with pickle sauce (a combination of dill, vinegar, onion, garlic and pepper in a buttermilk base) and pickles for “a limited time.” Customer reactions seem to range from “yum” to “why?” Can you explain this “pickle craze”? Remember, Sonic has Pickle Juice slushes, too. Or is this just a food fad, like balsamic vinegar was a few years ago, and kale is now?
A: Pickles are forever. Not a craze. Not a trend. A longstanding tradition. — J.Y.
Q: I sometimes find myself with extra tomato paste because even with the really little cans, there is too much there for my purpose (usually upping the tomato taste in spaghetti sauce that has a lot of extras in it). It seems it would be better to freeze it (ice cube tray?) and pull a cube out for making a chicken breast for one?
A: I cut a piece of plastic wrap in sheet pan or on a plate. Dollop tablespoons of tomato paste here and there on the wrap, freeze it, then place all the dollops in a zip-close bag. — J.Y.
A: You know about the metal tubes of tomato paste, right? That might be an option for your 1-tablespoon/small-increment needs. — B.S.B.
Q: I bought too much sliced cheese and ham. Can I freeze them?
A: Yes, you can. Helpful tips: Place wax paper or plastic wrap between slices of cheese. Wrap the sliced ham tightly in plastic wrap (in portions) and seal in a zip-close bag. Defrost in the refrigerator and pat dry before using, as the ham will mostly likely give off excess moisture. — B.S.B.
Q: I transferred leftover packaged sauerkraut into a screw-top plastic container and refrigerated it. I came across it weeks later, while cleaning the refrigerator, and put it on a counter. Where it ended up sitting for maybe two more weeks. Unrefrigerated. I finally opened it today and it smelled fine! But I’m afraid to taste it. Does fermented food need refrigeration? Does it ever go bad?
A: If the sauerkraut stays entirely submerged under the brine, it does not need to be refrigerated. That said, it also needs to be kept below 70 degrees to avoid molding. Sauerkraut is traditionally kept in barrels, so clearly does not need refrigeration, but those barrels were kept in winter storage rooms or other cool spaces. I’m not sure I would eat the sauerkraut that you describe. It’s been in a plastic container, in a room without temperature control, and whether it was submerged is not clear. I vote no. — C.B.
Q: Do we know why PBS aired all the seasons of “The Great British Baking Show” out of order? I just found out that the most “recent” season first aired in Britain in 2012.
A: I think it was because they started midstream and then to satisfy demand and interest, picked up older seasons since they never aired on this side of the ocean. I love that the “current” season is a few years old because then I don’t run the risk of spoilers via Twitter from the previous contestants that I follow. — Becky Krystal
A: A PBS spokesman told me they had to negotiate for each season of “GBBS” separately, so maybe based on the new series going to a different network over there, this is what could be obtained for play in the States? — B.S.B.