Photo: Photo By Jesse Dittmar For The Washington Post.
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Lazarus Lynch, an African American entrepreneur, author, musician, multimedia host, and the author of “Son of a Southern Chef: Cook with Soul,” recently joined The Washington Post Food section staff in answering questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.
Q: I’ve love fresh herb-inspired drinks and especially tarragon simple syrup in gin drinks. Am I crazy to wonder if any fresh herbs would work with a rosé cocktail? Maybe cilantro or basil?
A: Absolutely – lots of fresh herbs will work in rosé drinks. I can imagine basil or tarragon would play well. Cilantro makes me scratch my head a bit, but certainly worth playing with!
– M. Carrie Allan
Q: What are some of your favorite quick, easy desserts? This question came up from a friend who needs to bring something to a party. She has a chronic disease that means she doesn’t have a lot of energy to spend in the kitchen, and she doesn’t have an electric mixer. My go to quick dessert is to layer a cheese cake like mix (cream cheese, lemon juice, sweetened condense milk) with crushed crispy cookies, and a mix of chopped apples and strawberries. I’d love some other suggestions.
A: I love that easy cheesecake idea. I also love to melt some semi-sweet chocolate chips in a microwave, stir it up and dip fruit (patted dry with a paper-towel) like strawberries and orange slices for a fun, light, sweet treat.
– Lazarus Lynch
Q: I was recently diagnosed with a very serious disease and have been advised to follow a keto diet. Until now, I’ve been mostly vegetarian. I love grains and beans! I love fruit! Do you have any advice for transitioning to this very different way of eating?
A: I tried “ketotarian,” veg keto, for a couple of weeks after I turned in my bean book, just to see what I thought. I found it really tough to get all the fat eaten, which is something I never thought I’d have difficulty with. So many avocados, so much coconut oil, so many eggs! Having said that, I did think the book “Ketotarian” by Will Cole was full of good information and recipes, so you might check it out.
– Joe Yonan
Q: Lazarus, what is your oil of choice that you use for frying fish? Additionally why do you use Aunt Jemima self rising flour to batter the fish?
A: For most frying (deep frying or shallow pan frying) I use a neutral oil like canola or vegetable oil. I wouldn’t use an olive oil as it has a lower smoking point and won’t crisp up your fried food as well. That’s my opinion.
I grew up with Aunt Jemima flour and it’s the kind of flour my dad used at the restaurant.
Q: Can you recommend a good collection of recipes for an experienced drink mixer who likes burbon, tequila and rum? Maybe something that mixes classics with some new ideas, and is fun to read?
A: Michael Dietsch’s whiskey book has some great cocktails in it, “Cuban Cocktails” by Ravi DeRossi for more on the rum side … then there are some broader tomes – Paul Clarke’s “Cocktail Chronicles” has tons of good stuff and “The New Cocktail Hour” by André Darlington and Tenaya Darlington is one I’ve been liking lately.
Q: I’m never sure how long to cook my corn for. I bring a pot of water to boil, toss in the corn, bring back to boil, then cover and turn off the heat. But how long should it sit in the water to be cooked? Three minutes? Five? Ten? I’m cooking a lot of ears this weekend to make a fresh corn salad and don’t want to screw it up.
A: It can sit for 10 minutes in that hot water; if you need to hold it longer, you could reposition the cooked ears in a steamer basket set over/above a few inches of simmering water (covered).
– Bonnie S. Benwick
Q: I was gifted some cucumbers that were on the vine too long and have ended up pretty bitter. Any suggestions for how not to waste them? Am I limited to pickles?
A: Have you tried scraping out the seeds? They are often the source of bitterness. You can also try salting them and letting them sit for a half hour or so, then rinsing, the way people do with eggplant.
Q: Hi Lazarus! Your cookbook is so artistic and colorful. How did you develop this unique sense of style and point of view? What were your inspirations?
A: Thank you so much! I’m so glad you love it. I am an artist by nature and have always been attracted to color and vibrancy. I am also a painter, designer, performer and have been trained in these areas from a young age. Overtime, my style has evolved. My friends and art enthusiast came together to support me in creating the book so it’s really a combination of everyone’s creativity. Life is my ultimate inspiration.