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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Cooking, and Recipes, #90

Updated on June 23, 2019
Carb Diva profile image

Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

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?

Source

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?

  1. For the most nutritious produce, buy local. Shop at your farmers’ markets or the local produce stand. If that is not an option,
  2. 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.
  3. Your next (in order of preference) choice is produce that has been shipped from miles (often thousands) away.
  4. 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.

Source

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.

  1. Toss a few sprigs of thyme into the pan and 1 finely minced shallot.
  2. Cook and stir (in the butter and oil left in the pan) until the shallot begins to brown (2 to 3 minutes).
  3. Add 1/2 cup of water and whisk to loosen the fond in the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of mustard (I like grainy German mustard but Dijon would be good too) and 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire. Whisk until blended.
  5. 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:

Click thumbnail to view full-size
mushroom cream saucemushroom red wine saucecreamy peppercorn sauce
mushroom cream sauce
mushroom cream sauce | Source
mushroom red wine sauce
mushroom red wine sauce | Source
creamy peppercorn sauce
creamy peppercorn sauce | Source

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).

We're Organized

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: lindalum52@gmail.com.

And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.

© 2019 Linda Lum

Comments

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    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      3 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      (BTW I won't tell if you don't tell on me ;-)

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Eric. Each of those is worth an article. Believe it or not, I keep a list of all of the "I need to write about this" ideas, and using spirits in cooking is one of them.

      To answer your question, I favor using sherry or wine because they typically go in a light dish that is quick to fix and just that "splash" is what's needed to add a pop of flavor. It works wonders in risotto. Beer and brandy make an appearance in the long-simmered braises. I've never experimented with tequila but I'd give it a shot (pun intended).

      Thanks for a great question, and the push to go on and write those articles. (BTW don't tell anyone but I have enough articles written in advance to use one a week and not run out until mid-September).

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      3 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Linda, Sometimes a food thought gets stuck in my mind like a jingle. Sherry, Brandy, wine and even beer in cooking of course down here Mezcal or Tequila. And I remember lighting something on dishes.

      Food for thought and Sherry is where my head is at.

      But what is your favorite dish with one of these.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      MizBejabbers those are great questions. Stop back next Monday.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      3 weeks ago from Beautiful South

      Love your idea for the steak with garlic. My husband is our cook and rubs the steak or pork chop with garlic powder before cooking. But he's open to suggestions.

      My question is where do you get the good old-fashioned garlic we used to be able to buy anywhere? You know, the kind that your breath will clear a room. Today's hybrid garlic really doesn't taste like garlic to me. We also want to raise our own, and if we can get the good stuff, we can. I saw several different garlics in a garden catalog, but we don't know which to buy.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, if you small-skillet simmer those veggies long enough they will collapse into a delightful (to Ian) puddle.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      3 weeks ago from Brazil

      Hi (again) Linda,

      Although they have "English sauce" here, my husband spat it out saying it was horrible and not like Worcestershire Sauce.

      I do cover my veg with water. Unfortunately, my husband won't eat 'crisp tender' veg. He prefers it 'nursing home' soft.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Sha, why had I not thought of Worcestershire? (My cousin in England would be shaking her head in dismay). I hope that Mary sees your comments. Just in case, I'll refer back to this article in next week's Q&A. Thanks for your contribution.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 weeks ago from Central Florida

      Thanks for answering my question, Linda. I wasn't aware of the different grades of frozen veggies. I bought a bag of lima beans yesterday. I'll have to take a look and make sure I bought U.S. Fancy.

      As far as flavoring steak, I usually season it with salt, pepper, minced garlic (or garlic powder), onion powder and Worcestershire sauce, "fork" it into both sides and let it marinate for an hour or so in the fridge before cooking. I do take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes to an hour before cooking so it comes to room temperature. I find doing it this way not only seasons the meat but tenderizes, too.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Bill. I'm one-half Brit so I'd be glad to explain short crusts for you and the rest of our readers. Come back next Monday.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, smarter AND younger? My brain got the memo but my body didn't LOL.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Mary. I'm assuming that you mean you would simmer your veggies in a small amount of water (not enough to cover). That would work, but would risk a few more nutrients than using a steamer. Perhaps you could try a shallow saute pan (with a lid), a scant amount of water, a touch of olive oil, and low heat. I've used that method many times and by the time the veggies are cooked they are not only crisp tender but they have also gained a bit of color.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Thank you Pamela. I do my best, and I'm glad you found the information useful. You are in my thoughts this week.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Thanks Flourish. Simply looking at the cooking water would give one a clue that it's full of nutrients--it's not just water anymore. Thanks for stopping by.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Back to this baking show I'm watching...what is the difference between short crusts and other crusts? They keep mentioning short crusts for pastry, but I don't know why that is so special????

      Have a great week, Linda!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      3 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Fantastic again and again and again. You are like the EverReady bunny with a genius mind and artistic flare.

      My wife does real well with that preserving the vegetable water.

      The stuff on steaks is really well done. And I owned part of a steak house and started cooking them for money at 15 - a cowboy thing.

      I am using your "Organized" to springboard me in some research.

      You are an excellent resource and expert. Thank you.

      As your beginning quote notes; all things cooking are very good for your overall health. Reading included.

      But do you think writing about food related things is awesome for brain health - you keep getting smarter and younger - amazing.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      3 weeks ago from Brazil

      Hi Linda,

      Thanks for the answer about the steak and garlic. I will give it a go. I haven't seen fresh mushrooms here so it will have to be a peppercorn sauce. Mushrooms in a jar, just don't taste the same.

      You mention about steaming veg. Is that possible with cauliflower without a steamer? Can I steam my veg just using my saucepans?

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      3 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

      I am glad you included cooking steaks as I just bought some steak and that looks like a good way to cook them. I watch the helpful Gordon Ramsey video also.

      Saving the water from vegetables is not something I have ever done, but it sounds like a good move. Thanks for providing such good information as usual Linda. Have a good week!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      3 weeks ago from USA

      Good question on the vegetables and I like the reusing of the water. It’s such a waste to throw it out.

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