The Washington Post Food staff recently answered questions about all things edible. The following are edited excerpts. Recipes whose names are capitalized can be found in the Recipe Finder at washingtonpost.com/recipes.
Q: Is it just the stores I frequent, or have most supermarkets stopped stocking the apple varieties I've always used for applesauce? I like McIntoshes, Romes and Cortlands. I've used Fujis and Galas, dialing back on the brown sugar I add. However, the cut-up pieces tend to keep their shape, which would be fine for a chutney, but that's not what I'm looking for in an applesauce. Are farmers markets the only way to go? On a somewhat related note, do you find a need to occasionally replace peelers? I love my Oxo, but it is starting to dull.
A: Because so many apples are bred these days to be eaten out of hand, it has become harder to find a good saucy apple. I suggest you look at farmers markets or pick your own orchards, especially, for windfall apples, seconds or ugly fruit. Those are always the best saucing apples.
And as to your peeler, replace it. You'll be so happy you did.
- Bonnie S. Benwick
Q: I don't think I get this. I want to try to make many varieties of overnight oats - most calling for some kind of greek yogurt. Am I supposed to heat it up in the morning or eat them cold? I kind of feel like cold would be a bigger challenge than I'd want, but maybe I'm missing something?
A: Soaked oats like this are indeed meant to be eaten cold. It's like muesli! Now, some people (yours truly) just eat this in the warmer months, and find the cold temp to be just perfect. You can certainly try heating it up, and if you like it, you like it!
- Joe Yonan
Q: Do you have any advice on how to reheat Orange Chicken from our favorite Chinese take-out place? We always have lots of leftovers of this fried, sticky dish, but our efforts to reheat it always produce something dry and gummy. A lot of food ends up going to waste. The microwave seems to be a particular disaster in this regard.
A: Step away from the microwave. Reheat at 300 degrees in a small, covered pot, with a little orange juice or chicken broth stirred in (maybe 1/3 cup for every serving). Uncover and stir when warmed through, so the sauce is glistening. Uncover for 5 more minutes in the oven. You won't get the crispiness of that coating, but the chicken won't be dried out!
Q: When we were in southern Mexico fried crickets were for sale everywhere. I tried one and it didn't taste like anything but the legs got caught between my teeth. I had to quickly wash it down with a drink. Never again.
A: Yeah, I've heard that's a problem with tarantulas, too. But lots of Mexicans have mastered the art of eating them, and come back for more!
- Tamar Haspel
Q: I have never harvested brussels sprouts before, but they grew in my garden this year. I am confused as to how to pick them - from the bottom of the stalk to the top or from the top down? They don't seem to be larger on either end of the stalk, so it's not terribly intuitive.
A: There's no right or wrong direction to harvest your Brussels sprouts from! So cut away. And as for size, once they're big enough for you to eat, they're big enough to harvest. Totally your call.
Q: I'd love to make a bread pudding for an upcoming event. Unfortunately, the key person I'd be making it for is now allergic to yeast. We've tried yeast-free breads for other kinds of dishes, but the texture is rarely quite right. Any suggestions for bread pudding?
A: Have you tried using corn bread or muffins or a quick bread made with pumpkin puree or zucchini or banana? Maybe even drop biscuits would work. (The amount of liquid you use would vary.)
Q: I made a southern chicken casserole for the first time last night. It was... eh. Part of the problem was I let the sauce thicken too much, but the other problem was that there wasn't a ton of flavor. The recipe basically called for sauteeing some chopped onions, red peppers and celery, adding milk and flour to make the roux, and then adding cooked, shredded chicken and mayo at the end. It did call for hot sauce, and I added some cayenne and chipotle ground pepper for some more heat and a little complexity, but they definitely weren't enough.
I think this could be a decent dish if I could build in some more flavors, but I'm not certain what my best options should be, and I don't like the dish enough to endlessly experiment with it. If I were to give this one more try, what steps should I take? I considered throwing in some stems of rosemary and thyme while the roux cooks (although it thickened very quickly) and maybe replacing the mayo with sour cream. Maybe a couple dashes of something for umami, like Worcestershire or soy sauce?
A: You are on the right track - getting more flavor in that sauce, i think. I would steep the milk with roasted garlic and/or herbs (before making the roux) and then make sure the sauce was at a good point before adding the components (each of which should be seasoned as well). You could add herbs in when you saute those veg, too.