The Washington Post Food staff recently answered questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.
Q: My husband brought home a tube of parsley paste. What would you do with it?
A: Send him back to the store and ask for some fresh parsley.
I’d stir this into sauces (at the end of cooking), marinades and vinaigrettes.
– Joe Yonan
Q: I have a bottle of melon schnapps (think liquid honeydew with a kick). Any ideas for cocktails, desserts, or anything I could make with it?
A: How sweet is it? Is it more like sweet Midori liqueur or more like a true schnapps/brandy? A lot of the American “schnapps” are really liqueurs, whereas the European varieties tend to be drier. Depending on the answer, and assuming it’s more likely to be the liqueur, I really like how the flavor of honeydew pairs with mezcal and lime. If you get the balance right, it could make for a nice margarita variation – try substituting the melon schnapps for the Cointreau, then adjust as needed.
– M. Carrie Allan
Q: What is the best way to store ginger?
A: In the freezer. I usually break it into chunks that I’m more likely to use, such as one- or two-inch lengths. Wrap them in foil or put them in a zip-top bag. I find it much easier to peel and grate the frozen chunks anyway – leave it on the counter a few minutes to thaw ever so slightly.
– Becky Krystal
Q: When I bake a cake or cupcakes, and use buttercream or cream cheese frosting, it must be kept in the fridge for the icing to stay fresh (right?), but then the cake itself goes stale – is there a happy medium (aside from inhaling them straight from the pan to negate the issue of storage)?
A: Actually, a buttercream-frosted cake can stay on the counter (as long as your house isn’t too hot or humid), covered, for a couple of days. Although I usually just put mine in the fridge, in a cake keeper. Usually the cake itself seems fine, except for where it’s been exposed, so a little plastic wrap on the surface can help there.
Cream cheese I would put in the fridge, with plastic wrap on the cut cake as above.
Q: I’m in an “organizing” mood and just organized my spices yesterday. In the course of looking for containers to hold my spices, I found a $100 beautiful nutmeg grinder on Food52. I bought it and received the shipping confirmation today…it’s worth it, right? Right? I can’t resist beautiful kitchen items sometimes!
A: If you love it, it’s worth it. These are incredibly subjective and personal decisions, of course! I don’t think I’d spend $100 on a nutmeg grinder myself, but you might not carry a really heavy molcajete in a backpack all the way back from Mexico like I did, either. We love what we love.
Q: I made a ton of chicken stock a few weeks ago and, being unable to consume the four pounds of chicken used for said stock before it went bad, I chopped it up and put it in the freezer. What kind of shape is it going to be in when I take it out? Suitable for soups or enchiladas or other recipes that can mask any flavor or texture issues? Or will it be fine for salads and such? Or is it really only best for when the dog has an upset stomach?
A: It should be just fine, as long as it was protected from freezer burn!
– Bonnie S. Benwick
Q: What do you think of the powdered buttermilk that my health-food store carries? Is it good enough to substitute for the real thing?
A: It can be handy. I’ve used it in lieu of liquid a couple of times when the craving for pancakes strikes, but I prefer the real stuff most of the time. In certain recipes you definitely miss out on the thickening powers. The powder + water is not always an ideal substitute.
Q: I have not used dairy milk as a beverage in about 15 years, and have passed through the all the vegan milk trends since then (first soy, then almond, now all-the-other-nuts-and-legumes). With so many options now, do you have any recommendations for standout products (unsweetened) that taste great, are nutritious, and are responsibly produced? With so much conflicting literature about whether soy milk is detrimental to health, and almond milk being bad for the environment, and whatever else seems to be the health headline of the moment, those last two criteria are confusing to meet.
A: I really like Malk, and am a new fan of Elmhurst Dairy’s line. Neither includes stabilizers/etc., but Elmhurst does add a touch of sugar to theirs.