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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #137

Updated on May 20, 2020
Carb Diva profile image

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

It Was VERY Quiet This Past Week

No questions. None at all. Just one comment from a fellow Hubber (on one of his articles, but the comment was addressed to me). So, I'll share that exchange with you.

Let's hope that next week there I have more to offer. 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.

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.

Let's begin.

One picture is worth a thousand words.

This oft-cited quote has been attributed to Frederick R. Barnard who wrote "One look is worth a thousand words," in Printer's Ink, December 1921. Perhaps to add credence to his words, he claimed that they were first spoken by a Japanese philosopher (ahh, the wisdom of the Orient). Later, the Asian sage was changed to Chinese (Confucius perhaps?)

No matter who first wrote those words, the point is that one simple image can bring forth a wealth of memories. In my experience, the opposite is also true. Just a few simple words can bring back a flood of images. For example, my friend Eric Dierker said this last week:

"Now, off to pickle—which reminds me. I need a prickly pear fruit recipe for marmalade."

"Prickly pear." Just those two words took me back to a dusty, winding trail on the western coast of Italy.

My Memories of the Prickly Pear

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Prickly pear cactus in ItalyThe trail to Vernazza
Prickly pear cactus in Italy
Prickly pear cactus in Italy | Source
The trail to Vernazza
The trail to Vernazza | Source

The path from Vernazza to Corniglia is narrow and precarious. To my left is a steep hillside of boulders and stacked stones; on my right are jagged rocks hugging the rugged coastline. Nothing but a fragile railing separates hikers from that dangerous cliff edge…and a plummet of 700 feet to the Ligurian Sea. We are walking the sinuous cliff side path of The Cinque Terra.

Map of the Cinque Terra, and where it is on the Italian coast
Map of the Cinque Terra, and where it is on the Italian coast | Source

Cinque Terre (5 Lands) is a band of five small coastal villages on the west coast of Italy. Monterosso is the northernmost town; its beach, boardwalk, and luxury hotels have earned it the nickname “Italian Riviera."

Next is Vernazza. She holds onto her old-world charm with a quiet harbor under the shadows of an ancient castle. The hills of Vernazza are dotted with ancient olive trees and wine-producing grapevines which are still tended by hand on steeply terraced slopes. Most of all, Vernaza is about putting aside the frantic pace, inhaling deeply, and taking life at a slower pace.

Unlike her sister villages, Corniglia does not overlook the sea. Brightly-colored four-story houses outline the narrow streets and alleys and are little changed from the scene described by Boccaccio in his “Decameron” a 1353 A.D. compendium of 100 tales shared by ten travelers who have banded together to escape plague-ridden Florence.

Manarola is the oldest, and second smallest of the five villages. The primary industries are fishing and wine-making.

Then there is Riomaggiore, a fishing village originally settled by Greek immigrants in the 8th century A.D. Terraced hillsides dotted with grapevines and slate-roofed houses speak of the Greek influence. In the early 20th century a railway was constructed to link the five towns of the Cinque Terra to one another. To aid the construction workers in moving back and forth along the first segment, a path was excavated. One hundred years later that same path is used today by tourists; it is the easiest part of the trail, with magnificent views of the sea. It is here that romantics leave “locks of love” on the fence that overlooks the blue waters below. The locals call this place “Via dell’Amore,” the Walk of Love.

But we are not on the Walk of Love; the walk of death is more like it. Did I mention that I don’t like heights? Not knees-quaking petrified, but, given the option of viewing the plains of Kansas or contemplating the precipice that could instantly end my life, I think you know which I would choose.

When my husband and I began this trek, I was inwardly praying for deliverance, but as we progress, the path widens. . .the railing looks much more trustworthy, and there is just so much beauty to take in. Like a small child distracted by the lollipop at the doctor’s office, I have forgotten my fears. Inches from the railing are clusters of prickly pear cactus. The flowers have long since faded, and have been replaced by fat pink globes. If you grasp them carefully (a kerchief will help) they can be split open to reveal honey-sweet, sticky fruit. A peregrine falcon glides on an air current and then dives into the sea, a sea of unbelievable brilliant blue. And, the plant life—the air is filled with the scent of juniper, camphor-like myrtle, the heady perfume of lavender, and rosemary.


See, just two simple words and I can smell the rosemary and the dust of the trail, I can see the sapphire-blue sea, I can feel the warmth of the sun on my face. Thanks, Eric for taking me back to such wonderful memories.

Two Prickly Pear Recipes for Eric

Eric, there were dozens if not hundreds of prickly pear jelly recipes out there, but all of them require a hot water bath, and I'm pretty sure that you don't have a kettle, rack, and tongs for making shelf-stable preserves. So, I used my super-powers and found two that might work for you—the first is jelly that can be stored in the refrigerator for up to six months, and the second is a freezer jam. Both have detailed instructions and lots of photos. I hope that helps.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Prickly pear jellyYummy prickly pear jelly on toast
Prickly pear jelly
Prickly pear jelly | Source
Yummy prickly pear jelly on toast
Yummy prickly pear jelly on toast | Source

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 

      14 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, smoothies post is good to go. I think I've got you covered on smoked fish. I can't promise the hash until a week from Monday but will try my darndest.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      Hey let's go with a grill but then my oven too! Watch out for the fire alarm ;-)

      Linda times are tough all around. I need some corn beef hash without it being "corned beef".

      And I am with Bill, I can make smoothies that taste just like the stuff I put in them -- boring!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      14 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, it's on the way to being quite an episode with smoke detectors blaring and machetes flashing. Yes, black kitties can be little stinkers (our Pumpkin, for example), but they still find a way to wrap themselves around your heart.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      14 months ago from USA

      Feast or famine indeed. Looks like next week will be packed. Props to you for finding a way to make it work with prickly pears. That black kitten reminds me of my latest little addition who walked up to our house last fall and wanted to join our family. She’s still mean but my husband swears she’s turning the corner (slowly). Once we commit, it’s permanent though so we are all in regardless.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      14 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, so many questions. It's feast or famine. Last week there were none, and now the floodgates have opened. I'll put on my thinking cap and have (I hope) all the answers for you next week.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      14 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, what an awesome question. Do you have an outdoor grill? Covered? Give me a little more to work with and I'll see what I can do. I love the taste and aroma of smoked goodies too.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      14 months ago from Brazil

      When I saw your image, I thought it was what I have growing as a deterrent to intruders. I have never tried using it as food but know it is used in a lot of Mexican cooking too. I never thought about making jam. I need to find my gloves and get picking.

      I have a question for you. I read that you can make heavy cream from light cream by adding melted butter. Would I be able to whip that and also, will it work with UHT cream that is 17% fat?

      Also, I have two types of bamboo growing on our farm. Are all bamboos suitable for harvesting bamboo shoots? I am willing to try them but just don't want to poison myself. Also both of mine are 'clumpers not runners', if that helps.

      Have a wonderful week.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      Dear Ms. Diva, I have a problem. My son and I really like smoked foods. Fish being our favorite. But, But and more but as Gabe would say. Store bought is way to expensive and usually way to salty.

      We do not own a smoker. What should we do to make our own?

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      14 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Thank you, Pamela. It was a memorable and beautiful part of our trip.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      14 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Shauna, I have LOTS of photos. I might have written about Vernazza 101 years ago (give or take a few). I'll see what I can find and perhaps dust it off.

      The prickly pear is very mild, sweet but not cloyingly so. I'd compare it to the outer part (near the rind) of a honeydew.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      14 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, smoothie recipes sounds like a wonderful idea. And the history too? You've got it.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      14 months ago from Central Florida

      Linda, the memory Eric triggered is so eloquently written. Thank you for sharing with us. Do you have any photos of the villages, waters, etc.? I'd love for you to write an article about your experience.

      I've never had prickly pear. What does it taste like?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      14 months ago from Olympia, WA

      No questions? A sacrilege I say. How about a couple smoothie recipes for us all as summer approaches and berries ripen?

      For a friend? Eh?

      Happy Monday my friend...and where did the smoothie originate, if you have time.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      14 months ago from Sunny Florida

      I wish I could think of some good questions but I am not cooking much these days. My husband has to do it because I can't stand fr any length of time. I still always enjoy reading your food question articles.

      Walking that path on the west side of Italy sounds like a wonderful adventure except for the height, but it would be worthwhile if you can physically walk that path. It sounds so beautiful. Have a good week, Linda.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      The Chef and the exquisite historian and story teller never fails us. I was just reading Pressfield about the Muse. You would seldom see it here but as a profession I write technical.

      And I read a few technical articles on cooking. No not to learn a recipe. I read them because we all do well to do a list of "ingredients" a list of "tools/implements" and a process in which to meld them together in order to reach a conclusion. Construction and Legal and a house painter concepts do no less.

      My minor point being is that the above (mine) wreaks of technical but you have muse that brings us "up in the atmosphere and up where the air is clear" -- I think a nanny named Mary said that.

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