Save onion skins for broth, why California wines could cause headaches and other foodie tips

Food writer Susan Barocas uses onion skins and the tougher outer peel in her vegetable broth.
Food writer Susan Barocas uses onion skins and the tougher outer peel in her vegetable broth.PHOTO: WASHINGTON POST/STACY ZARIN GOLDBERG

(THE WASHINGTON POST) - Wine columnist Dave McIntyre and food writers Cathy Barrow and Susan Barocas recently joined The Washington Post Food staff in answering questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.

Q: Are there dishes that use onion skins? They're the first thing I throw away when I start cooking. Should I be saving them?

A: I use the skins and the tougher outer peel in my vegetable broth - I throw them in the freezer with all the kale stems, unused leek, carrot and potato peels, etc. (all washed before freezing). Then when I have enough scraps and time, I put it all in a big pot with cold water, bay leaves and garlic, let it cook for at least an hour before straining and storing. - Susan Barocas


Q: I recently bought some "00" flour because I have seen it in recipes and had trouble finding it in the past. What types of recipes should I would use it for and why it is better?

A: "00" flour is finely milled - if you run it through your fingers, you will notice its soft, silky texture. It's most commonly used in pasta and pizza, because you get a soft, supple, easy to shape dough, without using as much water as you would with all-purpose. When it bakes, things are crisp and snappy on the crust. Other than pizza and pasta, King Arthur Flour suggests using it in focaccia, crackers, flatbreads and gnocchi. - Becky Krystal

Q: I noticed that I may get headaches from California wines, but not European. Is this all in my head?

A: Not necessarily. Without trying to get all scientific about it, or knowing which types of wines you are talking about, I'd posit several possibilities.

The California wines might have more tannin or alcohol. They also may be made with more additives, though I won't give Europe a total pass on that, either. Additives may especially be a problem with cheaper wines.

Do you have a better experience with white over red wines? I know some people who can no longer drink Italian reds of any quality level because they get headaches. My advice is to find wines that sit well with you and stick to them. - Dave McIntyre

Q: I've got a fresh pineapple waiting to be eaten. I usually use it in smoothies, but I'm looking for something more creative to do with it, preferably a dessert that can be shared.

A: I love to grill or roast pineapple because that high heat caramelises the natural sugars. Cut the pineapple in wedges or rings, grill until it's warm and a tiny bit charred and serve with a bit of yogurt or ginger ice cream.- Cathy Barrow

Q: I am nursing my 11-week-old who has reflux so I have to lay off dairy and soy. I found that margarine has soy, so I'm looking for a non-dairy or soy replacement for butter so I can bake. Would a non flavoured oil work or even a nut butter? thanks!

A: Earth Balance, maker of vegan "butter," has a soy-free version available in spread and stick form. For baking, I'd go that route as the easiest, most all-purpose sub.- Joe Yonan


Q: Everything I've read online tells me the colour of the egg yolk doesn't influence its flavour. But I can tell the difference - I occasionally end up frying eggs from different cartons together, and the bright orange yolks definitely have more flavour than the pale yellow yolks. Is there any way to determine the yolk colour before I buy eggs? I'm guessing probably not, but it's so annoying to break open eggs from a new carton for breakfast and discover they have the flavourless pale yolks.


A: My egg-raising friends tell me that, in addition to how the hens eat, the fresher the yolk, the more brightly orange it is. So, it seems buying from farmers/farmers markets will get you the best eggs. If that's not possible, look for the most distant expiration date for organic eggs. - S.B.

A: My understanding is that the yolk colour is solely about the hens' diet. And I'm (respectfully) a little sceptical about your thoughts on the flavour difference - have you tasted them blind? Our visual perception really influences our perception of flavour. Tamar proved this a few years back, and it's been shown with other foods many times. - J.Y.