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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #124

Updated on February 16, 2020
Carb Diva profile image

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

She's Still Humble, Happy, and Humorous

April 25, 2017 was a life-changing date for Samin Nosrat. On that day her book “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking” was published. With that 480-page book, she shifted from relative obscurity to overnight sensation. “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” was on the New York Times best-seller list, it won the highly coveted James Beard award, and even became a 4-part series on Netflix.

Despite the rapid ascent to fame and fortune, Samin appears to still be a humble, happy, ever-enthusiastic soul. I appreciate her views on food and life, such as:

“Salt’s relationship to flavor is multidimensional: It has its own particular taste, and it both balances and enhances the flavor of other ingredients.”

“I’ve always joked that my food memoirs will be titled 'Brutta ma Buona,' the phrase Italians use to describe food that’s delicious but rustic-looking at best: ugly but food."

“I’ve always believed that pastry chefs are born, not made. They’re patient, methodical, tidy, and organized. It’s why I stick to the savory side of the kitchen—I’m far too messy and impulsive to do all the measuring, timing, and rule-following that pastry demands."

"I love Yorkshire pudding. It’s basically pancake batter that’s fried in beef fat and puffs up; it’s like you can’t go wrong."

"We all have incredible relationships to what we eat, to what we don’t eat, to what we’ve eaten since childhood and what we were fed, to what food means to us. And so I find it a really powerful tool in storytelling and in opening people’s hearts and their minds."

And, my favorite:

"I would say, probably 7 or 8 years into my cooking career, it stopped being about just food for me. Food’s really fun, but I’ve always been about people, and I realized that food is just a really convenient tool for me to connect people and bring them together."

So, Let's Get Together Today in My Kitchen

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.

Stove Top Cookies?

Mary (Blond Logic) had a question about baking cookies without using the oven.

"Right after I made some cookie dough, I discovered my heating element is either coked up or just needs replacing. It is now disassembled on my patio table. Is there an easy way to cook cookies on the stovetop?"

Mary, this was a new one for me. I found two similar recipes for "baking" chocolate chip cookies in a skillet. This first one suggests using medium heat, covering the pan to help the dough cook throughout and flipping the cookies after several minutes. I have concerns about the temperature suggested. If I used a medium setting on my stovetop I'm certain I would have cookies that are both burned and raw at the same time. Yes, I know that seems like an impossible feat, but I'm the queen of the kitchen. You would not believe the extent of my superpowers.

The second one I found uses a lower heat and covers the skillet with foil. I'm giving a thumbs up to the lower heat and believe that using foil instead of the lid will have an advantage. Like using a lid, the foil will help keep the heat in the skillet, but will also allow steam to escape.

skillet cookie
skillet cookie | Source

But, then I recalled a dessert I saw recently at a local restaurant—a skillet cookie. I know this isn't what Mary was thinking of, but it could certainly be an answer to her problem, and a fun dessert to make even if you have a fully functioning oven.


Mary had a second (tasty) question:

How to Make Honey Roasted Peanuts

"I have successfully made some Cajun-spiced peanuts using a rub my husband put together. I want to try something sweet such as honey but I am worried about the honey sliding off and burning. Do you have any advice to help me?"

Source

Mary, I'm assuming that you warmed your spicy peanuts in a shallow saute pan. Heat allows the flavor of spices to bloom. That plus the natural oils in the peanuts make a quick and easy snack. But as you guessed, using the same technique with honey or sugar would probably result in a burnt mess. The key to adding sweetness to peanuts (or walnuts, almonds, pecans, etc.) is to create a syrup in a deep saucepan but use the heat of the oven to finish them up. Here's what to do.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups peanuts (or other nuts)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Line a shallow rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Pour honey into a small deep saucepan. Cook over low heat until the honey becomes more liquidy. Remove from the heat and add the sugar, salt, and peanuts and stir quickly.
  4. Quickly spread the nuts out on the parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. As some ovens have hot spots, watch the peanuts closely. You want them to be golden, but not burned. You might not need 30 minutes.

Pink Himalayan Salt

I had two questions about pink Himalayan salt; the first from John Hansen (Jodah)

"In regard to salt, we use mostly pink Himalayan Rock salt at home. A friend who is an ex geologist says he cannot be convinced it is healthy, and if he comes for a meal we have to make sure we also have plain table salt available. With your husband being a geologist I would be interested in his opinion also."

Source

And then Denise (Paintdrips) who said:

"You've probably had enough with the salt question, but Shauna's question triggered one in my head. Can you explain Himalayan Pink Salt? Why is it pink? Why is it so much more expensive than sea salt? Doesn't that mean it's better, saltier, more flavorful, or something? Just wondering."

Pink Himalayan salt is a coral-colored salt extracted from the Khewra Salt Mine, in the Punjab region of Pakistan. Khewra is one of the oldest and largest salt mines in the world. Hand-extracted and minimally processed, Himalayan salt is free of additives. Its pink hue comes from the up to 84 minerals and trace elements.

John’s friend might be spooked by a 2016 study that compared lead levels in Himalayan salt to lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan. Honestly, there is a difference between lead in water (of which you might consume a fair amount on a daily basis) and lead in salt which will be an insignificant amount of your daily diet.

But on the flip side, I wouldn’t choose pink salt for the 84 minerals and trace elements either. Don't let it scare you, but don't assume that it will give you a nutritional boost either. Use it if you want for its novelty, or because you were able to acquire it at a bargain price.

Why is it so much more expensive than regular table salt? Blame it on marketing.

Sources:

Help With Coconut Sugar

Denise had a second question.

"And while I'm at it, I've been looking into some sugars. I see the regular white cane sugar and next to it coconut sugar (much more expensive) and another one I can't think of right now. I found a recipe that called for coconut sugar and warned not to substitute regular white sugar because it wouldn't work the same. Can you explain that? It was a recipe for vegan coconut macaroons. I'm a contrary type and so I tried the recipe with white sugar anyway. What a mess. The sugar liquified and spread out into a sheet of coconut lace and then hardened into pure brown candy. Not what I was hoping for."

Denise, some people have been lead to believe that coconut sugar is not sugar. Sorry to burst that bubble, but sugar is sugar. However, some studies say that coconut sugar has a glycemic index anywhere from 35 to 54. (White sugar is around 60). It is a better option than GMO white processed sugar for the occasional baked good but don’t be misled. It is still sugar.

I must admit that I'm puzzled by what happened when you replaced coconut sugar in a recipe with granulated sugar. Everything that I've read says that coconut sugar has a lower melting point so if it would work well in a recipe, why would granulated sugar (with a higher melting point) result in a liquid puddle?

If any of my readers (who have experience with using coconut or palm sugar) can offer some insight I'd love to hear from you.

Sources:

Washing Produce

"I am always slightly ambiguous about cleaning greens. I have read that people add things like baking soda to cleanse the pesticides off. Is that necessary?" —Kari

Kari, I had not heard of this. After doing a bit of online research I can only conclude that I have been living under a rock. How could I not have known about this? In 2017 a study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, was published by the American Chemical Society (ACS). They concluded that a solution of baking soda and water removed two types of pesticides from the surface of apples more effectively than did plain water or a solution of bleach and water.

"Although the study looked at apples only, one of the researchers, Dr. He, said the baking soda solution is a “general method” that can be used on other kinds of fruit and vegetables because it helps to break up pesticide molecules, which can then be washed away." Zero-Waste Chef, July 10, 2018

Here's how to do it:

In a bowl, mix together about one tablespoon of baking soda with six cups of water. Add the produce. Wait for about 15 minutes. Drain. Rinse.

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.

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.

© 2020 Linda Lum

Comments

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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Kari, I can't say that I will, but I know that I should. Perhaps the guilt will consume me LOL. Thank you for your kind words.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      17 months ago from Ohio

      I love this column, it is always so interesting! Thanks for answering my question. Do you think you will change your practice to include this? I don't always and I always feel guilty when I don't.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Denise, yes coconut sugar will assist in browning. I wonder how it would be in a teriyaki sauce for example? I'm glad that you found the key to what went wrong with your cookies.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      17 months ago from Fresno CA

      Thanks for the salt answers. I really appreciate that. As for the vegan coconut macaroons turned into coconut candy lace, I discovered my problem was not the sugar as much as too much of the coconut milk. I couldn't wait for Monday. I wanted the macaroons for my Valentine's Day so I went out and got the coconut sugar and tried again. What I found was the coconut sugar gave the macaroons a more browned quality than the white sugar but with the right amount of milk this time, they turned out great. Thanks for all the info. I really appreciate it.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Linda, it sounds like a trifecta. Thanks so much.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      17 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      The kitty is lovely! Your answers to the questions are interesting and informative. The skillet cookie looks delicious.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Someone copied your idea? Don't you wish you could cash in on that one? I'll take cookies over cake any time.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      17 months ago from Central Florida

      Linda, I never heard of the baking soda trick either. Thanks for providing the recipe.

      Interesting that you bring up skillet cookie. When my son was very young, he didn't like cake, but loved cookies. So, for his second birthday party I made a huge M & M cookie in a cast iron skillet. It was a hit with all the kids. Who knew it would one day become a thing?

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      17 months ago from london

      Indeed!!

      I guess the war taught folks in the 40's and fifties to be that way. You inherited it, perhaps. I think of you as being meticulous also, so I don't know why you say you're messy. Can't see it. Much Love.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Kitty is weary of the cold, wet winter. We want springtime, and we want it NOW. As for the positive qualities of pink salt, the trace elements are not enough to provide any nutritional value and it is ridiculously expensive. I'm a thrifty soul.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Pamela, this will be a busy week for sure. I've designed a new set of banners for my church and I have the fabric, so there's no excuse for not making them happen.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Ann, I'll never catch up to Bill unless he quits, and knowing him as I do, that will never happen until we pry that pencil from his cold dead fingers. And, I'll keep writing as long as I get good questions from my adoring public.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, what can I say? It must have been that time that you and I went to the disco and . . . oh, no that was just a dream, wasn't it?

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Eric. Some people "think" that iodine in the salt negatively affects their baked products (especially bread). But the testers in America's Test Kitchen have pretty much debunked that fear.

      Yes, today is a quasi-holiday. I'd be a little concerned about 10-year olds flipping fried eggs (and not having them break). Just ask me some time how I found out that pouring salt on a raw egg actually DOES help to clean up the mess.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Hi Mary. If you stir the peanuts several times before they harden up, they will be individual, candy-coated but not in slabs like brittle.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Chitangada you are so kind. I enjoy writing this and am happy to hear that people find it helpful. I hope you have a wonderful week.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      17 months ago from Olympia, WA

      A lovely introduction. I wish I could teach more writers the importance of such an introduction. It's not that I haven't tried. Sigh!

      Happy Monday my friend! I hope you are well.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      17 months ago from london

      What's wrong with the cat? A valentine?

      If you are saying so many nice things about Himalayan salt: more minerals and trace elements; less additives, good and tested mines … then why aren't you saying it's probably more useful?

      That skillet cookie looks amazing and yes, one day I will sell as many books as this woman. You may need by P.A, before you can talk to me then. Ha ha.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      17 months ago from Sunny Florida

      This is a very good article. I wondered about the pink sugar as I have seen ads that talk like it is so great. I am glad you addressed this topic.

      I am also glad to know about the baking soda to remove pesticides also. Thank for some great information, as usual, Linda. I hope you have a good week.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      17 months ago from SW England

      You are doing so well with this series. And it continues apace! Akin to Bill's mailbag, it's informative, useful and inspiring. Your chatty style is the icing on top, if you'll pardon the pun. Your table of contents is the perfect addition.

      Well done and long may it continue!

      Ann

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      17 months ago from USA

      The baking soda wash is a great suggestion so thanks for sharing that.i must have missed it too when that came out.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Well just another ho hum great fantastic epic from Linda. Stove top cookies for Gabe this week. Thanks on that. Eating those peanuts will be a fat day in h.... (get it? 'fat') On the other hand a great one for hiking in heat.

      Now I have researched and researched on the salt. I think you are looking at some huge bucks to get one with real sodium reduction. Plus no Iodine makes it a looser. I like the idea of Morton's sea salt with iodine added. Hey if you do not go nuts shaking it and run from processed foods the sodium is just right in cooking.

      Holiday here so the boy has Rico visiting.

      What is perfect to cook for a visiting 10 year old? Perhaps my famous easy over egg sandwiches and let them try frying the eggs?

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      17 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Linda,

      Thanks for answering my stove top cookie and peanut queries.

      The honeyed peanuts sound like peanut brittle before it has had a chance to go hard.

      Interesting information about the salt and using baking soda for washing the produce.

      Have a great week.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      17 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Great article with interesting questions and your answers are quite informative.

      It was good to read about Samin Nosrat.

      Your series, Ask Carb Diva, is a storehouse of knowledge. I always learn something from it.

      Thanks for sharing.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      John, isn't it fascinating that something as ordinary as salt could create such intrigue?

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      17 months ago from Gondwana Land

      A great article this week, Linda. Thank you for answering my query about Himalayan Pin Salt. That lead poisoning scare sheds some light on it.

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