Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Food for Thought: Bring in the substitute

Nancy Leson
Use cotton towels instead of paper to keep greens fresh.

Now that we can't just run out to the store every time we need something for the recipe, it's good to know about some common substitutions. In this week's Food for Thought, Nancy Leson and I share a few.

“My son Nate called to ask for my buttermilk biscuit recipe," she told me. “I asked if he had buttermilk and he said no but he did have milk and lemons.”


I'd known about that emergency buttermilk method, but never tried it. Leson claims it works fine. The ratio is one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to one cup of milk. Mix it and let stand for about 10 minutes. It won't be as thick as real buttermilk, but still makes a good substitute. A little yogurt, kefir or sour cream thinned with water also work well.


Listener Lynn sent in a better option than damp paper towels for keeping herbs and leafy greens fresh. She uses a wrung-out linen or cotton dish towel instead. Works fine, it's reusable and helps conserve paper towels. Thanks Lynn! And if your leafy greens are getting tired, it's easy to refresh them in a bowl of cold water. In a half hour or less they'll be like fresh. Well, close to fresh, anyway. 


One of Nancy's favorite substitutes for a leafy green salad is celery, which last a lot longer in the fridge. Nance likes to slice it on the bias and dress with olive oil, lemon and anchovy. For salads like that and for stir-fried dishes with celery, I often shave off the strings with a vegetable peeler. It turns plain old celery into an exotic vegetable from a foreign land.


Out of crumbs for breading? Try crushed cornflakes, saltines, potato chips, and even pretzels. I like to use dehydrated potato flakes sometimes. Nuts such as almonds and walnuts whizzed to a powder can work, too, though they'll burn a lot sooner than crumbs. 


Here's the Food Network'stop 18 food substitutions. Who else has some good ones to share? Post below.


There is no substitute for a good substitute.” – Nancy Leson.

Dick Stein joined KNKX in January 1992. He retired in 2020 after three decades on air. During his storied radio career, he hosted the morning jazz show, co-hosted and produced "Food for Thought" with Nancy Leson and wrote and directed the Jimmy Jazzoid live radio musical comedies and 100 episodes of Jazz Kitchen.