Food

What Are Your Most Burning Questions About Food?

What Are Your Most Burning Questions About Food?

If you are anything like me, food is on your mind all. the. time. Which is why I am so excited to announce a new advice column…

It’s called Burning Questions, and the goal of it will be to address your cooking and eating dilemmas large and small. Not just how to get the perfect sear on a pork chop, but all of it, the emotional, the practical, the downright random. (Especially the downright random!) I’ve written three cookbooks and spent the better part of the last decade writing about food on my blog Dinner: A Love Story, so if you guys send in the questions, I’ll do my best to answer, deploying experts if I can’t figure it out myself. Examples of the kinds of head-scratchers that might come up:

My boss is coming over for dinner, what should I cook?

What breakfast should my son eat on the day of a standardized test?

Why can’t I find a store-bought vegetable broth that doesn’t taste like low tide?

Help! A lacrosse-ball size kohlrabi showed up in my CSA box and I don’t know what to do with it, except use it as a lacrosse ball.

My family is visiting New York City (or Seattle or Asheville or Amsterdam). What is the one restaurant we absolutely must go to?

What can I bring to a potluck that is both delicious and easy?

What cookbook should I get for my eight-year-old who loves to bake?

Why does my pizza dough spring back to its original size after I roll it out?

Which fun food people can I be follow on Instagram?

Uh, what is the difference between “simmer” and “boil?”

How do people actually get family dinner on the table?

As our teachers used to say, there’s no such thing as a dumb question. If it’s on your mind, it’s likely on someone else’s mind, too. So, please tell me: What are your burning questions?

P.S. How to get your kids to talk at dinner and 10 rules for easy entertaining.

(Photo illustration by Maud Passini for Cup of Jo. Food illustrations by Alessandra Olanow.)

  1. Hey! So I am having two of my friends come over to visit me for dinner in two days.I am South-Asian,so you know, curries, other cultural dishes are pretty much what I cook on a daily basis. So I have a problem. My two friends are vegan. Can you please suggest me a few easy vegan recipes,preferably Indian dishes, that I can cook for them as an alternative to meat dishes?

  2. Elizabeth says...

    I need Cast Iron and Dutch Oven 101 (not just how to care for it but how to use it… how not to use it). The first go around I set off our smoke alarm by leaving the skin on the piece of salmon I was cooking (the salmon wasn’t even cooked through yet but the alarm was sounding in our condo. I just moved in after our wedding in March… and he wasn’t home to make the beeping stop & I was frantic, fully believing the ceiling spickets would begin raining on me and all of our neighbors at any minute)… Then, the second time I actually started a fire when I put what I thought was a pot holder on the cast iron handle (it was apparently meant for tea/coffee and my husband thankfully caught it before huge flames ensued, while I was still wondering what smelled like delicious campfire marshmallows). Now, I am deathly afraid of using my cast iron pan and dutch oven. I don’t know what can and can’t be made in it, I am scared it will get too hot and anything I put in it will turn to flames, and I am so scared to pick it up without the proper gloves because I don’t want what happened to the “pot holder” to happen to my hand…. so I haven’t touched it since… but fall is coming & I want to make all the delicious things in my cast iron. HELP!

    • Jen says...

      I definitely recommend a handle cover for your skillet (Amazon has them for a few dollars). Cloth ones can still melt a bit at the edge if left on while cooking, but over all it’s super helpful for me in the kitchen. I’ll leave the cooking advice to Jenny ;) but I do love making anything I’d use any other skillet for in the cast iron, it’s a real workhorse.

  3. Em says...

    How do you know when a recipe is good before you make it? Besides word of mouth, of course. Or is it still a guess from even the most experienced cooks amongst us?

  4. Erin says...

    Cookbook recommendations for eating a Mediterranean diet? Not as a “diet” but as a way to incorporate all those super healthy, amazing food groups more into weekly life! Thanks!! (also, I love your writing and work so much Jenny! You could probably just post your grocery lists and I’d be pinning/saving them! ;)

  5. Ellen says...

    Would you recommend marble counters in a kitchen?

    • Kelly P says...

      I have them and I love them. However, I have accepted that they will stain (they have), etch (yup), and end up looking imperfect (on their way!). I have to admit, the first stain was like a punch to the gut, but after a few it’s fine. The stains I have are light in color and not glaringly obvious. If you can also accept those things then they’re a beautiful option.

  6. Ashley Em says...

    FTLOG, what are good appetizers to bring to a party *that do not include chips*?? Dips (salsa, guac, elote, etc.) are delish but I hate always bringing chips to a party. Veto to crudite too, boring. Help! Thanks. :)

    • anne says...

      Bruschetta comes to mind – besides tomato/basil you could do an olive tapenade, goat cheese and leeks…

  7. Mindy Walker says...

    What’s the secret to making pancakes from a box? Why is it sooo hard for me not to burn them or undercook them? My kids love pancakes after sleepovers, and this past weekend, I ending up serving frozen mini ones to our guest because I just destroyed the pancakes! Is there a brand you like best? Should I add an egg? Am I overstirring or over oiling the skillet? I have a great French Toast Casserole for special planned breakfasts, but what I need is the secret to whipping up pancakes for 10-year-olds who don’t want any of my endless egg options! I also don’t want to buy a special pan, but would prefer to just use my regular ol’ skillet!

    • Katie says...

      We just played “six months of trying to find easy pancakes” and what I learned – all the mixes are terrible (both from cooking consistency and taste) and you really should just follow the NYT Buttermilk Pancake recipe. Yes, it requires you to have buttermilk. Yes, you can cheat and use regular milk and it’s almost as good (just put in a little less).

    • Em says...

      I picked up a waffle iron (free with credit card points) and it’s been soooooo good! You don’t have to oil the pan, it tells you when it’s finished. I can highly recommend!

  8. Sheirl says...

    -Local or organic? (this feels like- the planet or health?) When is it important to get organic?

    -fast, esay and healthy recipes, avoiding carb base if possible.

  9. M says...

    How do you keep yourself organized when you grocery shop? Do you do a big grocery run or multiple small trips? Bring a list based on meal plans? How do you balance stocking your pantry vs buying super fresh ingredients? And what are your grocery shopping tips for carless city dwellers? (Hard to do a huge stick-up run.)

    Thanks!! Can’t wait to read.

    • kat says...

      My approach –
      1. Figure out what your “staples” are. In my house, it’s creamer, eggs, cheese, flour, sugar, grapeseed oil, macaroni noodles, velveta, spaghetti and cans of whole tomatoes. Check to see if you need refills on any of these. Your staples should include the ability to make at least one “emergency” meal for when you are out of groceries.
      2. Make a list of the meals you want to make between now and when you want to go shopping again. For us, that means 1 week. Don’t forget to be honest about how frequently you don’t feel like cooking. We usually plan for dinners only – 3-4 “fresh ingredient” meals and 1-2 “this could hold to next week” meals (like spaghetti). We plan to eat the leftovers for lunch.
      3. Figure out what you need to buy to make those things and add them to your grocery list.
      4. Add any additional meals (breakfast / lunch), snacks, beverages, etc.
      5. Go to the store. Accept that it will probably take you an hour (or more!) to get everything you need.
      *Bonus points – arrange your list in roughly store order
      **Expert level – when you arrive at the store and can see what is on sale or looks good, be able to adjust what meals you plan to make on the fly. Be careful not to forget any ingredients.
      6. Make a list on your fridge of all the meals you plan to make, and any other food you need to remember to eat (avocados, I’m looking at you!)

  10. Kim says...

    Leftovers!
    How long are they good for?
    I love to cook and experiment and my husband loves to eat whatever I make, but for a non-germaphobe he’s weirdly irrational about leftovers. I now write what it is and the date on masking tape and leftover consumption has increased by at least 70%. We generally plan to eat or integrate leftovers into the next meal. I hate to waste, but if plans change and we go out to eat or join friends… how long are leftovers good for? How long can you leave meat in the fridge before cooking/freezing?

  11. irish1482 says...

    How do you stay inspired when cooking with extreme dietary restrictions?? Family members can’t have alliums, citrus, peppers, tomatoes (basically anything flavorful!)!