Food writers Francis Lam and Andreas Viestad recently joined The Washington Post Food staff in answering questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.
Q: Why is it so hard to find fish stock to purchase?
A: Sadly because not enough people use it! But you can make it without a lot of fuss. Get some fish bones (chefs would say not salmon or other fatty fish, but if you like those fish, why not?), sweat them in just a little bit of oil with a little onion or whatever aromatics you like, cover with water and simmer for 20 minutes, and you‘re done. I love doing this with shrimp shells anytime I buy shrimp. And sometimes I‘ll splash some fish sauce into it to amp up the flavor.
Q: I have the flu. Any comfort-food suggestions that are light and involve minimal work? I‘m vegetarian, so chicken soup is out.
A: Since I am very much into Indian food these days, I would recommend a lentil soup with lots of curry, so you can taste it, and lots of chile pepper and ginger. There are numerous recipes; my favorite is simply frying onion, garlic, lots of ginger, add tomato and garam masala and lentils. (Editor‘s note: Consider using vegetable broth to create the soup broth.) Season with chile to taste, and then some. Get well soon!
Q: Do you have any classic cookbook recommendations? I‘m slowly starting to cook more and have leaned pretty heavily on “The Joy of Cooking.” What were some of your first cookbooks that helped you become a better cook?
A: Some suggestions include Mark Bittman‘s “How to Cook Everything,” “The Gourmet Cookbook” from Gourmet Magazine, Jacques Pepin‘s “Complete Techniques,” “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child et al., and Deborah Madison‘s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.”