Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Cooking, and Recipes, #90
Isn't It Amazing What You Can Find on the Internet?
For weeks I was cloistered in my office, eschewing the garden because the weather was too cold and wet. Finally, the rains abated and were replaced with sun, glorious sun. But now, it's too hot! (Some people are never satisfied.) So I'm at my desk again, writing and researching, and researching and writing.
I could say that my actions are out of love for all of you, and that would be partially true, but there's a bit of guile-filled self-preservation as well. And I tell you that as a set-up for this. In the midst of my research, in my exploration of Googleland, I found a quotation I want to share with you:
Cookbooks hit you where you live. You want comfort; you want security; you want food; you want to not be hungry and not only do you want those basic things fixed, you want it done in a really nice, gentle way that makes you feel loved. That’s a big desire, and cookbooks say to the person reading them, ‘If you will read me, you will be able to do this for yourself and for others. You will make everybody feel better.— ~ Laurie Colwin, "More Home Cooking"
And that is why I write this weekly column, why I shared recipes and food history every Tuesday on Hub Pages, and why I have a personal blog as well.
So let's get started with today's questions and answers. If you're an old friend, you already know how this works. But, if this is your first visit, let me introduce you to my kitchen.
Each week I receive questions about food ingredients, cooking or baking terms or methods, requests for recipes, and queries about nutrition. Just about anything food-related has been covered here.
I'm sharing this past week's questions and my responses; it happens every Monday. Want to join in the fun? You can leave your question in the comments below, and next week the answer will be right here. It's that easy.
Fresh vs. Frozen Vegetables
I was surprised about (your information on) frozen vs. fresh green beans. I have been led to believe that veggies are frozen at their peak of freshness and are just as healthy as fresh. Once you enlightened us to the fact that green beans don't do well in cold temps, it now makes sense.
Which leads me to a question: which veggies are just as nutritious when frozen as their fresh counterparts?
Shauna, I’m glad that you asked that question, but the answer is . . . well, it’s complicated. As you know, the moment vegetables are picked from the vine (or plucked from the earth) they begin to lose nutrients. Refrigeration will slow down that process, but the only way to put the brakes on, so to speak, is by freezing. But, veggies can’t go straight from the garden to the chiller. An enzymatic process breaks down the vitamins and pigments even at freezing temperatures. The only way to stop this is by blanching (immersing food in rapidly boiling water for a minute and then plunging into ice water). The first step (boiling) stops the enzyme activity; the subsequent ice bath stops the cooking so that the vegetables stay crisp.
Blanching prevents one problem, but it triggers another in its place. Some nutrients are heat-sensitive (thiamin, for example), and some are water-soluble (vitamin C and the other B vitamins).
So, what are your options?
- For the most nutritious produce, buy local. Shop at your farmers’ markets or the local produce stand. If that is not an option,
- Buy frozen. Yes, there will be some loss of nutrients (it’s unavoidable) but frozen vegetables are harvested at their peak of ripeness when their nutrient levels are the highest. Look for packages labeled “U.S. Fancy.” “U.S. No. 1” and “U.S. No. 2” are lower grades.
- Your next (in order of preference) choice is produce that has been shipped from miles (often thousands) away.
- Your very last resort should be canned vegetables. They lack the nutrients, color, and crispness you need, want, and deserve on your dinner plate.
And finally, please don’t boil your vegetables, ever. Steam or roast or simmer in a stew or soup, but never cook them in water. Whatever little nutrients they have left will literally go down the drain.
How to Flavor Steaks
Recently I made myself a steak with garlic. It wasn't a great success because the meat didn't retain a garlicky taste. Plus I had to quickly remove the garlic to keep it from burning. How can I get a garlic taste without the worry of burning my garlic? I'd also like to have some flavored drippings in the pan to pour over my spuds.
Mary, nothing smells better than a pan-seared steak. For the benefit of all of the readers, I’ll tell you not only on how to flavor that steak, but how to cook from step 1.
- Your steak should be a minimum of 1.5 inches. Less than that thickness will cook very quickly, perhaps in 3 minutes for medium-rare.
- Pat dry with paper towels.
- Salt liberally (don’t be shy) with kosher salt and let rest for 40 minutes out of the refrigerator. This is something that not all cooks agree on. Gordon Ramsay (he’s in the video below) doesn’t salt his steak until he is ready to cook it, but he does remove it from the frig 20 minutes before cooking.
The timing is important. If you don’t have 40 minutes (or up to 2 hours), pretend that you’re Gordon. Less than 40 minutes and you are drawing juices out of the meat; forty or more and the juices come out, the salt liquefies, and then it all seeps back into the meat.
My friend Kenji (Serious Eats) tested this by cooking six bone-in rib eyes, each salted at 10-minute intervals. He’s the scientist and I’ll let him explain it to you in this link.
- Use a cast iron or stainless steel pan.
- Add oil to pan; heat over medium-high heat until smoking.
- Use tongs to turn the meat. Turn often.
- Cook until internal temperature has reached 110°F (43°C) for rare or 130°F (54°C) for medium (steak will continue to cook for a bit afterward), 6 to 12 minutes depending on thickness.
- Add 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 or 3 whole cloves of garlic to the pan.
- Tilt the pan toward you and use a spoon to bath the steak with the butter.
- Remove the steak from the pan and allow to rest for 5 minutes. While it is resting you could put very thin shavings of a fresh garlic clove on the steak.
Now, let's look at how Gordon Ramsay does it.
You also asked about a pan sauce. You have plenty of time to whip one up because you need to let that steak rest a good 5 minutes before carving.
- Toss a few sprigs of thyme into the pan and 1 finely minced shallot.
- Cook and stir (in the butter and oil left in the pan) until the shallot begins to brown (2 to 3 minutes).
- Add 1/2 cup of water and whisk to loosen the fond in the bottom of the pan.
- Add 2 tablespoons of mustard (I like grainy German mustard but Dijon would be good too) and 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire. Whisk until blended.
- Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in 2 more tablespoons of butter. The butter will thicken the sauce.
Here are a few more ideas from the internet:
Each week we learn about a food item that you probably toss into the trash bin without a thought or a care—until today that is. Let's find out which discards can be re-used and re-purposed.
Vegetable Cooking Water
In Home Economics Class (yes, I’m that old) we were told that some of the nutrients in vegetables leach out into the cooking water. (As I stated above, vitamin C and the B vitamins are water soluble). It seems a shame to let those yummies go to waste. I don't boil vegetables (potatoes are the only exception), but if you do, here are some ideas on how to let that cooking water work for you.
- First, be sure that you give your veggies a gentle wash (especially potatoes and root vegetables).
- After cooking, let the water cool then using it to water your garden plants.
- If you have the freezer space, you can also save the liquid to flavor soups, stews, or gravy.
- My mom saved the water from boiling potatoes and used it in her yeast bread.
- Use in rice or risotto.
- If you make your own chicken or beef stock, add vegetable water in place of tap water.
- If you typically moisten your dog or cat’s food with water, use veggie water instead. (ONE EXCEPTION—NEVER USE WATER IN WHICH ONIONS OR GARLIC WERE COOKED).
Did you know that there is a Table of Contents for this series? I have created an article that provides a detailed listing of each question I've received. It's broken down by category, and within each category, the questions are listed alphabetically. Each question is actually a hotlink back to the original post.
Here's a link to that Table of Contents.
I have also cataloged all of my personal recipes that I have shared with you in this weekly Q&A series and in all of my other articles as well. The link to that Index is here. There are hotlinks to each recipe and this will be updated as new recipes are shared.
One More Time?
Let's do this again next week. If you have questions about foods, cooking techniques, or nutrition you can ask them here. If you are in search of an old recipe or need ideas on how to improve an existing one I can help you. If you want to learn more, let's do it together. Present your questions, your ideas, your comments below. Or, you can write to me personally at this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.
© 2019 Linda Lum