The Washington Post

Excerpts from a recent online chat with the food writers at The Washington Post.

Q: I seared a roast in my enamel Dutch oven. The brown sugar in the rub burned, and now I have black scorched stuff on the bottom of the pot. I scrubbed what I could and poured in vinegar to soak overnight, but it's still fairly black. Any ideas for my next move? I don't want to use anything abrasive that would damage the enamel.

A: When I burn stuff like that, I boil a kettle of water and pour it in, or I boil water in the pot. Then I let it soak, soak, soak. And I've used coarse kosher salt for scrubbing to no ill effect.

Q: I recently learned that I could toast cumin seeds in a dry skillet and then grind them in a coffee grinder. The smell is absolutely intoxicating. Are there other whole spices that would particularly benefit from this technique?

A: Other candidates would be cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cloves, fennel seed, peppercorns, star anise, coriander seed and mustard seed.

Q: This is a frequent problem for me: I like corn tortillas for fish tacos, enchiladas, etc., but I can never use a whole package before they go bad. I sometimes throw them in the freezer but never have time to separate them all so they don't become one big lump. Any creative ideas for using them up?

A: I'm assuming you mean the refrigerated rounds in a bag? Brush with a little oil, season with salt and cut them into strips; they crisp up pretty well on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven or in a very quick fry of hot oil. Or leave them whole and do the same; you can slather on everything from Nutella to mascarpone and caramelized fruit, or simply dust with smoked paprika or cinnamon sugar and snack away.