Many of us are well into our transition from dining out more days than not to learning, or relearning, how to cook for ourselves. As we get into the swing of cooking at home, we’ve debuted “Ask Bittman” over on Facebook, for what’s turning out to be a lively Q&A from 3 to 5 p.m. EDT on occasional Thursdays.
We’ll keep you posted on when you can ask questions in the comments and I’ll respond as quickly and as usefully as I can — and if there are any questions I can’t answer right away, I’ll do my best to follow up in the week afterward. Here’s a sampling of this week’s conversation.
Q. Marcy Timberman: Thank you for your presence and good advice. Everyone’s cooking up a storm but please be generous with donations to your local food banks who now are feeding so many more. I taught cooking at a food bank until recently, focusing on using staples in new ways. What can you suggest for those with limited resources to help them get through this?
A: Mark Bittman: I cannot recommend beans enough: black beans. Cannellini. Garbanzo beans, Cranberry. Make sure you salt to taste and don’t be afraid to add a dash of white wine vinegar to brighten things at the finish. Beets, root vegetables, brown rice, and other whole grains will also feed a person forever. And cabbage as many ways as you can make it — it’s really an underrated vegetable. Thank you for all you do.
Q: Ian Crew: Picked up some malted bread flour at the store. Any suggestions for use?
(And thanks for “How to Bake Everything” — it reignited a long-dormant passion for baking.)
A: Mark Bittman: Hey Ian. And thank you! And wow. I asked my friend Rick Easton about this one — he’s a bread master (Google him; really). He says malt in bread flour encourages thorough fermentation and contributes to more browning in the crust. Depending on the product, it can be very nice. Hope that helps!
Q: Daniel Walton: What uses are there for pasta water besides thickening sauces? I hate pouring all that goodness down the drain when I make a big batch of noodles, but I usually don’t immediately need more than a cup of it.