Food writer and cookbook author Priya Krishna recently joined The Washington Post Food section staff in answering questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.
Q: I love making masoor dal (so simple, so delicious) and I've seen recipes that call for tomato and recipes that don't involve tomato. Is one more "traditional" than the other? Is it just preference?
A: Neither way is more or less traditional. You do you!
- Priya Krishna
Q: This is the first year I'm doing an actual herb garden. We have sweet basil, greek globe basil, mojito mint, parsley, cilantro, and chives. I have an overload of greek basil and cilantro that I literally don't know what to make. I thought of a pesto however I don't think I'd like it and due to a nut allergy, but what else can I do with it? I'm not worried about the mint since we're doing a lot of drinks, the regular sweet basil, parsley and chives since are good add on's but it's the cilantro and greek globe basil that have me stumped.
A: Cilantro is great for making all manner of sauces! Go for a chutney. It can be frozen too.
- Kari Sonde
A: I'll also add a tip: Treat herbs like flowers, and cut big bunches of them and bring them inside and put them in vases. You'll love having the smell around. I do that with a giant lemon balm bush I have, and with oregano, lemon verbena, mint...
- Joe Yonan
Q: As a child I sat at kitchen table with my Scandinavian mother and grandma and prepared crates of peaches, pears and tomatoes for canning. We prepared pickled peaches, pickled beets and plain canned fruits. I recall scalloped tomatoes too but I never hear of them or see them on a menu today. Do you all know anything about this old fashioned dish?
A: Funny, I was just looking at a recipe like this in a new grilling cookbook. Scalloped tomatoes make a good side dish for cookouts. I know that such recipes typically crushed or broken-down summer-ripe tomatoes (peeled, but with seeds), maybe diced onion or red pepper, oil and seasonings, then baked with cracker or dried bread crumbs, maybe a little grated cheese. Baked like a casserole. (My suspicion is that this type of dish used up the "uglies" or overripes on hand.) Sometimes tomato halves are scooped out and refilled kind of like twice-baked potatoes.
- Bonnie S. Benwick
Q: I am stuck with no time to get home to make naan for dinner tonight. Can you recommend a store-bought brand of naan or pita that won't make me cry?
A: I swear by Trader Joe's frozen naan. By far the best store-bought I've had and frankly better than a lot of what I've had as takeout. Oddly enough, I think the Harris Teeter store brand pitas are pretty good too.
- Becky Krystal
A: I second Becky's Trader Joe's naan endorsement. It's by far the best premade version I've had and we've kept it in our freezer for 'emergency' naan needs (they exist!)
- Olga Massov
Q: There shouldn't be any problem with cooking potatoes a day before then finishing the potato salad Saturday, right?
A: The only issue with this is that potatoes can oxidize and take on some ugly colors if you leave them undressed in the fridge. Pretty sure you could just go ahead and dress the potatoes the day before and just pull it right out of the fridge.
A: Is there a reason why you wouldn't want to just make the potato salad a day in advance? I find that flavors develop in those kinds of recipes. (The trick of splashing just-cooked spuds with plain rice vinegar helps to keep them from discoloring for cold storage, I find.)
Q: Potatoes are the greatest base for Indian spices that I know of. OK, maybe chicken and potatoes. Do Indian cooks choose among several types of potatoes for their cooking, e.g. tiny new, red waxy, etc. or do you just grab what's handy?
A: We love Russet Potatoes! They are sturdy and exceptionally good at absorbing spices! But we also love tiny new!
Q: We tried the Beyond Burgers on Memorial Day and hated them. (Full disclosure: the 2-year-old, who does not like meat, did like his). They were just too similar to meat yet not exactly like it for me. Is it worth trying the Impossible Burger, or am I better off sticking to veggie burgers that aren't trying to be as meat-like?
A: Such a great question. I heard from a couple vegetarians who didn't like these because they were too much like meat. I think a lot depends on how you try them. Impossible is only in restaurants, which mean you get them in a flavor-packed restaurant burger situation, and differences are hard to spot. I've had a couple Impossibles, and liked them. When you make Beyond at home, I think there's a larger margin for dislike. Happy tasting!
- Tamar Haspel
A: Keep in mind that these products, honestly, were not invented for vegetarians or vegans! The makers are after a bigger market.