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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

What’s the best way to dispatch a prolific crop of cherry tomatoes?

When life gives you cherry tomatoes, make salsa, or a roasted tomato confit.   (5PH/Shutterstock)
Becky Krystal and Aaron Hutcherson Washington Post

Each Wednesday at noon Eastern time, Aaron Hutcherson and Becky Krystal of the Washington Post answer questions and provide practical cooking advice in a chat with readers at They write and test recipes for Voraciously, The Post’s team dedicated to helping you cook with confidence. Here are edited excerpts from a recent chat. Recipes whose names are capitalized can be found at

Q: I have an abundance of cherry tomatoes in my garden. Can I make tomato soup with them? What else? I need as many ideas as you can give me!

A: I wouldn’t use them for soup. They have a much higher ratio of seed and skin to fleshy interior. The Blackened Salsa from our archives is superb and an easy way to use a lot.

-Becky Krystal

A: Also consider Roasted Cherry Tomato Confit. And then there’s the Baked Feta Pasta that went viral last year that would also put them to good use.

- Aaron Hutcherson

Q: I made a large batch of corn chowder. Can I freeze it?

A: Yes, you can freeze corn chowder. The cream might separate, but you can just stir it while you heat it back up to reincorporate.

- A.H.

Q: I’ve noticed that some of my cake recipes specifically say not to use Greek yogurt. Why? Is it too thick?

A: Yup! It is strained, so you lose a decent bit of liquid that way (or whey, ha-ha).

- B.K.

Q: I see a lot of recipes with fish sauce. Also oyster sauce. For those with shellfish allergies, what are good substitutes?

A: Generally fish sauce is made from anchovies, so check the label and you might be OK to use it if you have a shellfish allergy. I’m actually allergic to fish sauce, so often I simply use soy sauce or tamari instead. We also have a recipe for No-Fish Sauce in our archives if you want to make your own substitute at home.

- A.H.

Q: I often buy nice looking garlic only to find that inside each clove it has already sprouted the bitter green stem. How can tell if the garlic is fresh, or at least doesn’t have the green stem that needs to be removed?

A: Certainly avoid any that are already sprouting in the store. Look for heads where the cloves are tightly packed, nothing soft or shriveled. Cloves should be firm and plump. Honestly, these days I don’t even really sweat the green stem. Here’s what Cook’s Illustrated says: “In recipes, we found that removing the sprouts from older garlic cloves didn’t matter, since the strong taste of the cloves overpowered that of the sprouts. We also found that the harsher taste of sprouted garlic was detectable only in dishes calling for a lot of garlic (aglio e olio) or where it was the primary flavoring (aioli).”

- B.K.

Q: Is an air fryer just a convection over? Can I use the Cuisinart toaster oven for the same purpose?

A: They operate based on the same concept, but an air fryer is a more powerful convection oven. There are some toaster ovens that include an air fryer function, so it depends on what model you have. Even so, I’ve heard that air fryer toaster ovens aren’t quite as efficient as the basket-style air fryers.

- A.H.

Q: I’ve been craving pasta salad recently. I neglected to add an acid of any sort to my shopping list. All I have in my pantry at present is plain white vinegar. I’ve purchased cherry tomatoes, black olives and diced ham for my other ingredients. Can I use the vinegar I’ve got? What other choices for an acid might you suggest?

A: You might be able to get away with the white vinegar if you’re judicious. Lemon juice is always nice. Do you have any pickles in the house? I love making use of that brine.

- B.K.

A: I tend to stay away from distilled white vinegar in the kitchen (aside from maybe in a pickling liquid) because it’s pretty harsh. Yes, you can use it, but I’d use about half the amount the recipe recommends and adjust from there. But speaking of pickles, you can use pickled ingredients to add the acidity you might normally get from just vinegar.

- A.H.

Blackened salsa

1 medium jalapeño pepper, stem removed, left whole

2 large shallots, peeled and left whole

4 medium (unpeeled) cloves garlic

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes

2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt, plus more as needed (may substitute 1/4 teaspoon table or sea salt or generous 1/4 teaspoon Morton’s kosher salt)

3 tablespoons to 4 tablespoons water, plus more as needed

Position the top oven rack 4 to 5 inches from the broiler element; preheat the broiler.

Combine the jalapeño pepper, shallots, garlic and cherry tomatoes in a large cast-iron skillet or a roasting pan; place in the oven to broil for 10 to 15 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until the vegetables are blackened in spots.

Remove from the oven and reserve the garlic; transfer the remaining vegetables to the bowl of a food processor and let cool slightly.

When the garlic is cool enough to handle, discard the papery skins; add the garlic to the food processor, then add the sherry vinegar, salt and water. Pulse or process briefly until the mixture is pureed but still a little chunky. Taste and adjust salt as necessary; thin with water as needed. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Servings: 6 (makes 3/4 cup)