Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #110
Last week while looking for a specific cookbook in my pantry, I found an old friend, a special collector's edition of "Bon Appetit" magazine. Dated May 2000, this issue is devoted entirely to "The Soul of Tuscany."
Every article, every recipe, and even the advertisements are Tuscan-focussed. It's been quite some time since I had scanned its pages, so I sat down to read and we became reacquainted.
Midway I found a special advertising insert "At Home with Nick Stellino." When it was written, Nick was still not well known but was an "up and comer" in the pantheon of television food chefs.
His first appearance in front of the camera was in 1994 in the PBS studio in Seattle, Washington. With its authentic trattoria setting, nostalgic family stories, and Nick's effervescent personality (and charming accent), the program was warmly received; viewers felt that they were not watching a TV show but were in the kitchen of a good friend.
Today, Nick has multiple television series to his credit, along with 12 published cookbooks. His cooking shows are seen on public television stations across the United States and are syndicated throughout Latin America, Eastern Europe, South Africa, and the Middle East. But he hasn't forgotten where he began. In fact, he still tapes his shows in the PBS studio in Seattle.
Why am I telling you this? I've always appreciated his approachable, friendly style, I would eat absolutely anything he cooked, and we have something in common; we both hold the same philosophy about food and family. Here's a quote from Nick in the May 2000 issue of Bon Appetit:
"If I think of my own family's connection with food, I am flooded with memories, vivid images of smiling faces, familiar voices, and music. Most of all, though, it is smells and tastes that carry me back to the hours spent around my family's dinner table in our modest home in Palermo, Sicily.
"When Italians talk about food, they are talking about their souls. Our culinary traditions are the sacred thread that runs through the tapestry of or lives. Our sense of family and community is so intertwined with the rituals of shopping and preparing, of eating and drinking, that these activities virtually define our past, describe our present, and shape our future."
Well, let's get started with today's mailbox. 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.
The first question today comes from Mary Wickison (Blond Logic).
How to Use Lemongrass
Ian has planted lemongrass. I make tea from it and he uses it in a stir-fry. It's such a lovely aroma, is there a way to get that into cookies or a pudding?
Mary, before I answer your question, I'll give the rest of the readers a head's up to explain what we're talking about.
Lemongrass (also known as citronella grass) is a perennial grass that grows in the tropics. It sprouts in clusters and healthy plants can reach from 6 to 10 feet high. Each individual stalk will consist of a tough covering similar to a corn husk and a soft white inner core. It's that inner core that is used for cooking.
As the name implies, lemongrass has a subtle citrus flavor and aroma. When you purchase lemongrass look for stalks that are firm (not floppy). The lower end of the stalk should be pale yellow and the upper part of the stalk should be green. Don't buy if the outer leaves are dried and brown. Store loosely-wrapped in the refrigerator—it should keep for several weeks.
You asked for dessert recipes, and that search was lots of fun. (You've got me wishing that I had a pot of lemongrass on my patio but I'm over 3,000 miles north of the equator). Here are some links that you might enjoy:
Turkey for Two (or Three)
Next, Eric Dierker and I had this exchange:
"Sorry I have no time to write my question on our using just a bit of turkey for Thanksgiving. I have trouble keeping it moist."
"Eric, I hope you'll get back to me with your turkey concern because you are probably not alone with your problem. Do you have a problem with dry turkey? Or, is it that you want to cook a small amount (not a 20 pounder?) to use more as an accent rather than the centerpiece? Am I on the right track?"
"Yes the turkey deal with us is only 3 of us. A whole turkey just is too much. I really want just 3 breasts this year. Things like "frozen" or "fresh" and ways to keep it moist."
Eric, I am doing my happy dance right now. This is exactly the type of thing that I love to do—finding recipes and new cooking ideas for my besties. For just the three of you, one turkey breast might be enough (the breeders today are creating very bosomy turkeys). With that in mind, here are a few turkey breast recipes that are better than simply tossing the turkey in the oven and letting it cook.
- Brown sugar maple-glazed turkey breast - This is the photo shown above. Isn't it gorgeous? Maple syrup, brown sugar, and sriracha are mixed together for a sweet-spicy glaze. (As soon as I saw those ingredients, I thought of you).
- Slow-cooker turkey breast - If you have a slow cooker (crockpot) you can roast a turkey breast without using your oven. That's a bonus for so many reasons. First, you're saving energy. You aren't heating up your kitchen (and I know you've been near triple-digits even now.) And, using that enclosed container instead of an open roasting pan will ensure that your turkey stays moist and juicy. Winner winner turkey dinner!
- Hasselback turkey breast - Eric, I can almost see your face as you read this. You're scratching your head and saying out loud "what in the world is a hasselback?" Hasselback is a method of preparing and cooking food—cutting vertical slices in a long and slender food (just for fun think about the profile of a zucchini), stuffing something inside those slices, and then roasting/baking. Still puzzled? Well, I have devoted one entire article to the topic of hasselback and just for you, I will publish it tomorrow!
Nutrition for Eye Health
"Did I ever ask you about the eyes? I'm having trouble with mine. Anything to help with Glaucoma or the optic nerve? Next Hub, perhaps."
My dear Manatita, I know that you have been suffering from vision issues/eye surgeries for some time. I'm sorry to hear that this still is a problem for you. Here's what I know about nutrients that help eye health:
"Mom" used to tell us that we should eat carrots for our eyes. That's a nice thought, and carrots are certainly a healthy, low-calorie, nutritious food (full of the antioxidant beta-carotene), but they don't have what we need to support eye health. There are other antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are found in high amounts in your eyes, in fact, in higher amounts than all others. Vitamin A (especially retinol), C, E, and zinc are also important. So how can you include those nutrients in your diet?
My daughter's Kindergarten teacher told her students to "eat a rainbow" to be healthy, and there's a lot of wisdom in that statement. Here's a list of the foods that give a big boost of those things.
Green Foods for Eye Health
Orange and Yellow Foods for Eye Health
And Others for Eye Health
Nuts and flaxseed
How can you tell which foods are highest in the antioxidants you need for eye health? Check out their color; in general, the more intense the hue, the greater the amount of lutein. Harold McGee explains it this way in his book "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen"
"Nowhere in living things is oxidative stress greater than in the photosynthesizing leaf of a green plant.... Leaves and other exposed plant parts are accordingly chock-full of antioxidant molecules tht keep high-energy reactions from damaging essential DNA and proteins. The dark leaves of open romaine lettuce contain nearly 10 times the eye-protecting lutein of the pale, tight heads of iceberg lettuce."
Are there foods to avoid? High amounts of caffeine can pose a problem, so take care with eating chocolate or drinking coffee and tea. Salt (sodium) can also be problematic; obviously we're talking about blood pressure here. Keeping hydrated is important, but big gulps of liquids are not the solution and could be harmful. Small sips throughout the day are best.
Updates from Last Week
I have the bestest friends/readers in all of Hub Pages. Your comments and feedback are incredibly helpful. For example:
- FlourishAnyway suggests drying that fruit and using it in homemade granola. Yum!
- Rinita Sen mentioned that it can be used green as a vegetable. Also, it's excellent for digestion and reducing bloating. I'm going to devote an entire article to "Exploring Papaya." Stay tuned.
Perfect Swedish Meatballs
- Brave Warrior (Shauna Bowling) adds dill weed to the meat and the sauce.
- MizBejabbers (Doris James) provided this neat idea: "I love waffles and last year I bought a mini waffle maker (4 in. waffles). I got a wild hair one day and added just a little more liquid to my recipe for a gluten-free chocolate mug cake. It made 3 perfect little chocolate waffles, kind of like cookies. I eat them by dipping them in pancake syrup. Delicious. Thought you might like the idea of turning mug cakes into waffles. Just be sure to use a recipe that calls for baking powder."
What Flavors Go Together?
"Here's one for you...complimentary flavors when baking? Cherry and chocolate are probably my favorites....can you give me five more which are personal favorites?"
Billybuc (Bill Holland), that's a great question. My first thought was "I don't like to combine flavors. I'm a purist. I don't even like to dunk my fries in ketchup." But, that's not true. Some things do naturally seem to go together, just like Simon and Garfunkel. Here are my favorites:
- Pears and ginger - I'm envisioning an open-face puff pastry tart with sliced pears and candied ginger. Why this match? Unlike their cousins the apple, pears are sweet but typically don't have the tart zing of apples. So their "pair" perfectly with ginger (sorry, I couldn't resist).
- Apples and cheddar cheese - Some people say this is sacrilege, but I love a slice of sharp cheddar (especially an Irish cheddar) on top of a warm wedge of cinnamon-apple pie. Or you could mix some of that sharp cheese right into the pastry. The tang of the apple and the creamy richness of the cheese just go hand-in-hand if you ask me (and you did).
- Chocolate and coffee - Both beans, both dark, and both have a bitter/umami flavor. Dark chocolate covered espresso beans are the bomb! And as you know, I use espresso coffee in place of water in my dark chocolate brownie recipe.
- Lemon and lavender - These flavors together scream Springtime for me. There's something about the bright flavor of citrus that makes me think of Spring, Easter, looking forward to lemonade in the Summer perhaps. And, have you ever tasted lavender? Obviously floral, green, herby, fresh—all of those tastes fill me with happy thoughts of growth and new beginnings. I put them together in shortbread cookies.
- Salted caramel - This one appears in just about everything—well, I haven't seen it in a soup (yet), but dessert (of course), main dishes (Asian cooking), and even candied pecans on a salad. Even though it seems to be overdone I still appreciate the contrast, the yin and yang of sweet and salty.
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.
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: email@example.com.
And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.
© 2019 Linda Lum