Tucker Shaw, the editor in chief of Cook’s Country, recently joined The Washington Post staff to answer questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.
Q: We were away for a little over a week and our previously dud poblano plants came to life. Of course, the biggest and most beautiful have turned red. Can I still use them? (I tend to use (them) in soups and stews and anywhere green peppers are called for.)
A: I just experienced this. Mine turned red while I was away for a couple of weeks — all green peppers will eventually if they can ripen — and I took them to my friend Pati Jinich (host of public TV’s “Pati’s Mexican Table”) who dubbed them rojo rajas after she charred, peeled and put the strips on sopes, which we devoured. They’re like red bell peppers with personality — a little heat, not as much as poblanos. Or to look from the other side, they’re like sweet, mild poblanos. Try them out. Delicious. — Joe Yonan
Q: I’m making cupcakes for my daughter to bring to school tonight. I’ll also need another batch of cupcakes for her party on Saturday. If I keep the unfrosted cupcakes in the fridge will they still be good for Saturday? … They’re chocolate. Using buttermilk, no oil if that matters. Thanks!
A: I think you should be fine. Depending on the recipe, though, you might have a bit of dehydration so I’d suggest storing them as airtight as possible. And never underestimate the power of a little extra frosting on a party cupcake — makes things festive and covers up minor imperfections. —Tucker Shaw
Q: Which on-air cook on “Cook’s Country” breaks up in laughter the most while filming? Who makes the others laugh the most?
A: Bridget (Lancaster) should have a stand-up comedy act. She is hilarious. Also, Bryan Roof. He is the king of one liners. —T.S.
Q: For most of my childhood we had Jewish neighbors across the street. We would exchange cultures — they asked if their daughter could come over to experience decorating a Christmas and we would go over to their house to learn about food cooked for different Jewish holidays, etc. Looking at (The Post’s) biscotti recipe made me remember her teaching me to bake mandelbrot. I no longer have her recipe, but, if I’m remembering it correctly, they seem pretty much the same. Is there any difference between the two?
A: I find them to be pretty interchangeable. The biscotti I’ve made are nearly identical to the mandelbrot my grandmother would make when I was little. Both get baked twice and both are great for long voyages. (I’ve sent care packages with them because they keep so well.) — Olga Massov
Q: I am always up for flavorful kebabs, but I’m not fond of ground turkey. (If I’m going to have hearty fatty meat, I’ll stick to lamb or pork). What adjustments would you make to the fat content or the spicing for ground lamb, which I always have plenty of in my freezer?
A: Hard to know exactly how much adjustment you’d need to make for fat. Depends so much on the cuts of meat that were ground in the first place. For spicing lamb, I’d consider to warmer Mediterranean flavors like cumin, coriander or maybe some quietly smoky ground pepper like Urfa. Just don’t cover up all that beautiful lamb flavor, though! — T.S.
Q: I have had the same burr grinder for maybe 15 years that’s been used 3 to 4 times a week. There doesn’t seem to be a way to sharpen the burrs. I’m seeing lots of irregularity in the size of coffee particles it produces. Is it time to buy a new one? How long should they last?
A: Might be time to start shopping around. Fifteen years is pretty good, and there have been some improvements in technology since then, I think. Our equipment team recently did a pretty extensive testing of new models and their favorite is the Baratza Encore (model No. 485) which performed well in a bunch of tests. It’s about $140, which is about in the middle range of what’s on the market. — T.S.
A: I have a Baratza Virtuoso at home. It’s about 2 years old and requires regular cleaning to keep it functioning well. I looked on the Baratza site, and it suggests that the lifespan of burr grinders is about five to seven years, depending on usage and type of grinder. I think it’s time for you to upgrade. — Tim Carman
Q: Do I need to keep my pomegranate molasses in the refrigerator? I keep my “regular” molasses and my blackstrap in the cupboard along with honey. Is this OK for pomegranate molasses as well?
A: Yep! — Kari Sonde