Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #124
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.
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?"
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.
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups peanuts (or other nuts)
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
- Line a shallow rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- 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.
- 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."
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.
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.
"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.
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.
© 2020 Linda Lum