Excerpts from a recent online chat with the food experts and writers at The Washington Post.
Q. My neighbors have tons of fresh peas right now. If I want to freeze them, should I shell and blanch them, or can I just throw the pods into a freezer bag and shell when I am ready to use them?
A. You should definitely blanch before freezing! The peas are much more likely to get freezer burn if you don't. For peas with edible pods like snap peas or snow peas, you don't need to hull them; you can just cut off the ends, blanch and freeze them whole.
Q. This feels like a silly question, but does broccoli roast well? I tend to roast or grill most vegetables, but broccoli I pretty much always steam.
A. Please roast your broccoli! Honestly, it's my favorite thing for most of the meatier brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts). 500 degrees, olive oil, salt, boom.
Q. What can I add to roasted beets to make a nice cold salad?
A. How about a chiffonade of mint, torn parsley leaves, some toasted/slivered almonds, a crumbly fresh cheese and a favorite vinaigrette?
Q. My CSA (community-supported agriculture) delivery was full of cucumbers. The problem is I have about 40 of them, and I can use only so many. My cucumber salad expertise is a bit limited, but I guess there are ways to give them some variety? Also, how long should I expect to be able to keep them?
A. How about cold cucumber and yogurt soup? My favorite comes with dill, but you can also make it with mint and black pepper for variety. Farm- or garden-fresh cucumbers should last up to two weeks, if you store them in a humid environment below 55 degrees. I keep mine in the refrigerator crisper drawer in a perforated plastic bag.
Q. I have a recipe from the 1980s for a tarragon vinaigrette that calls for corn oil. Would canola or grape seed oil be a suitable updated replacement?
A. Either one of those would work. You might also try olive oil, which tends to be my go-to fat for vinaigrettes.
Q. In past chats, the liquid that beans are cooked in has been described as something to the effect of "pure gold" or "manna from heaven." But, what to do with it? For example, today I cooked chickpeas. I'm going to roast them, so I don't need any liquid for tonight's recipe. I can save it, but for what? Whenever broth is called for? Also, all kinds of beans?
A. Yes, it's a great substitute for vegetable broth: thicker, usually, so it's particularly helpful when you want something with a little body or silkiness, like a pureed vegetable soup. And, yes, all kinds of beans produce a lovely liquid.
Q. Which is the best, simplest way to cook a hamburger: stove or oven?
A. No choice of a grill? Then I'd go with the stove, in a grill pan or cast-iron skillet. Try not to flip the burger till you get a good sear on the bottom.
Q. I need a skillet that can start out on the stove and be transferred to the oven. I don't want to have to abandon a recipe when I see that step (as happened recently). So, what am I looking for? Cast iron? Something else (like the stuff with the enamel)? Is there a most-useful size?
A. I'd go with cast-iron, the size of which depends on the size of your oven. But my 10-inch cast iron pan fits perfectly into our tiny galley-kitchen oven, and it handles a wide variety of foods. There are, of course, other seasoned pans that would work: the seasoned enameled pans, for example, or the seasoned carbon steel. They're both more attractive than your basic seasoned cast iron.
Q. I separated whites into a yellow bowl and the last yolk broke, which made fishing out the yolk bits a real challenge and a failure. So I started over, and now I have three extra yolks. Can I freeze them? If so, is there a recommended method?
A. Yes, you can freeze them. Add a pinch of sugar or salt, depending on how you think you might use them. Be sure to label and date; maybe even weigh the total amount first.