Cookbook author Julia Turshen joined The Washington Post Food staff to answer questions about all things edible. The following are edited excerpts. Recipes whose names are capitalized can be found in the Recipe Finder at washingtonpost.com/recipes.
Q: I love sweet potatoes. I usually do hash with sausage and onions or mashed. My mashed sweets tend to be a little on the bland side. Do you have any suggestions for how to liven them up without adding hot sauce? I’m not a super spicy person and prefer the sweet potatoes to be on the savory side.
A: I would suggest roasting them before mashing instead of boiling or steaming so they’ll have a more concentrated flavor to begin with. You can try other strong, savory flavors that aren’t spicy; for example, try some pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika).
Q: Is it possible for dried, ground ginger to go bad? I tried it a while ago and found the flavor uncharacteristically unpleasant. Perhaps it was simply a bad batch?
A: Dried spices can get really dusty, although they don’t spoil in the same way other pantry items can (such as oils going rancid). When you keep them around for a long time, they lose their flavor quite a bit. Try buying dried ginger (or any dried spice) in a very small amount so you’re more likely to use it before it goes bad.
Q: The Stir-Fried Sweet Potato and Pork looks great, and has my family’s favorite flavor profile, but we don’t do pork. Would this work with ground turkey? Would we just up the seasonings to combat the blandness of the ground turkey?
A: Yes, you could use turkey. And sure, bump up those seasonings if you find it bland. (An extra spoonful of oil might help too.)