Food writer Joy Manning and cookbook author and chef Virginia Willis recently joined The Washington Post staff to answer questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.
Q: Our department decided to do a potluck lunch. We’re supposed to bring something reflecting our heritage. My mother was from South Carolina and had wonderful dishes, but her recipe book was inadvertently thrown out when she passed. Would you all have any ideas for a potluck dish that is cold? It’ll be hard to find a way to reheat most of the dishes that I am considering. (Thought of macaroni salad, but I want to consider other things.)
A: I love the idea of a macaroni salad! Only in the South would we combine pasta and mayonnaise and call it a salad. Another idea would be a simple salad of sliced tomatoes and cucumbers with thinly sliced sweet onion. Drizzle it with canola or salad oil and a spoonful or two of apple cider vinegar and a handful of freshly chopped dill. Coleslaw would be another idea. It’s so hot pretty much everywhere, so a cold dish would be the way to go. — Virginia Willis
Q: My garden is giving lots of lovely patty pan squash. Aside from spiralizing or slicing and steaming and dressing with butter, what can I do with them once they are sliced or spiraled?
A: I made some patty pan into a taco filling last weekend: Thinly slice, sprinkle generously with salt, let sit in a colander over the sink or a bowl for about 15 minutes. Then pat dry, toss in some flour (or cornmeal or chickpea flour) and cumin (or whatever seasoning you want), and fry in a nonstick skillet with a little oil. Do this in batches so that you don’t overcrowd the pan and the slices get brown and a little crispy at the edges. Top with sauteed onion slices, sour cream, cilantro and hot sauce. — Kara Elder
Q: My fiance is allergic to sesame, but we both love hummus. I’ve had fun experimenting with different add-ins/dips instead of tahini (using veggies, cheeses, herbs), but I’ve yet to find something that will give us the same flavor profile of a traditional tahini-forward hummus. Any suggestions?
A: Try almond butter! It won’t be quite the same, but it will still be delicious. I’d start with maybe 25 percent less, because it’s thicker than tahini. — Joy Manning
Q: My husband recently had a (relatively mild) heart attack. He’s finally now willing to change his diet and is making efforts to give up some red meat and a lot of butter and other fats. Can you recommend cookbooks that will help me with meal planning for heart-healthy meals? Especially for lunch, as that is where he has been mostly in control of his meals, so there’s the greatest need for change.
A: I really love Deborah Madison’s books, especially “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.” I’m also a fan of the recipes in the questionably named Thug Kitchen books and the America’s Test Kitchen “Vegan for Everybody: Foolproof Plant-Based Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and In-Between.” — J.M.
A: I’d have to shout out Kim O’Donnel, former food writer for Washington Post. Her “Meat Lover’s Meatless” cookbooks are amazing. — V.W.
A: Cookbook author/cooking instructor Amy Riolo does some really nice stuff that is healthful. — Becky Krystal