Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #153
Safety in the Kitchen
Several weeks ago, a friend on this website made me aware that with more people cooking at home (and perhaps not terribly adept) there are more reports of injuries.
"It surprises me the number of people I have read or heard say they had never used an oven until this Covid-19 pandemic started. I guess that is one good thing about it...But paramedics report a spate of burn injuries due to the same. That’s a worry. Maybe using an oven and common sense are related."
John, I agree that it's probably time to remind everyone about how to be safe in the kitchen. Sharp knives and hot burners can cause serious injury. I covered this topic several years ago, specifically about children in the kitchen, but the rules apply to all of us.
Staying Clean and Healthy
- Wear an apron (or an old shirt) to keep your clothes clean. BUT, don’t wear anything big and baggy. Loose-fitting clothing can bump things on the floor, get caught in mixers, catch on fire, etc. Roll up your sleeves, tie back your hair, and don’t wear dangly jewelry (this goes for adults too).
- Wash your hands. Wash before you do anything else. Then wash again if you touch raw meat or if you touch your face.
- Don’t lick your fingers while you are cooking/preparing food.
- Washing as you go is a good idea, but don’t ever put sharp knives into a sink full of soapy water.
- Wipe up spills when they happen so that no one slips and falls.
- Get everything ready. Even professional chefs do this. They call it mise en place. Get your mixing spoons, bowls, measuring cups and spoons, and knives out. The same goes for your ingredients. Instead of running back and forth for stuff from the pantry and refrigerator, gather everything you’ll need ahead of time.
- Read your recipe before you begin. That way you’ll know what happens first, what the next step will be, and so on. You’ll also know when to add things—they don’t always go in at the same time. I have a story to tell you—once my daughter decided to bake a cake, all by herself. She was able to read the list of ingredients and knew how to measure, and so she did just that. All of the flour, the sugar, eggs, butter, and baking powder went into the bowl at the same time. She mixed and mixed and dumped it in the pan. What came out tasted okay, but it sure didn’t look like a cake.
- Keep things that would burn away from the cooktop—paper towels, dish towels, and potholders.
- Never put water in a pan that has hot oil in it.
- Always turn the handles of pots and pans away from you. If they stick out and overhang the front of the cooktop, you could accidentally get bumped and spill on the floor, or on you!
- Never grab a hot pan with a wet potholder.
- Use a kitchen timer so that you don’t forget something in the oven or on the cooktop. Even the best of cooks can’t remember everything.
- When stirring a pot on the stove, always hold onto one of its handles so that the pot doesn’t spin away from you.
- Don’t point knives as anyone and always pick them up by the handle. Ask an adult to show you how. Never use a knife without supervision.
OK, Now I'm Ready to Get Started
With that off my chest, 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.
A Good Cucumber/Sour Cream Salad Recipe
I think my friend Eric Dierker wants some help with finding a good/better recipe for cucumber salad.
"Of course the cucumber sour cream side helped, but I need help with that also."
Eric, my husband loves cucumbers; whenever we have a tossed salad (which is almost daily) he wants slices of cucumbers. They're cool, crispy, refreshing, and rather flavorless so they go with just about everything. I don't know what you are looking for in a cucumber/sour cream salad but here are some ideas:
- Thai cucumber salad: The dressing is flavored with rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, and a pinch of red pepper flake.
- Creamy German cucumber salad: Sweet and sour with sugar and yogurt and a hint of dill—actually I'd use a lot of dill. Dried dill weed is OK, but fresh elevates this to a whole new level of flavor. I love the taste and fragrance of dill (it reminds me of summer days spent making pickles with my mom).
- Creamy Italian cucumber salad: Pops of flavor from minced garlic and Italian seasoning.
- Greek tomato-cucumber salad: Tomato, cucumber, crispy chickpeas, Kalamata olives, and feta cheese—the list of ingredients says it all.
- Watermelon and cucumber salad: Refreshing flavors of watermelon, cucumber, fresh lime juice, and fresh mint. I know, pairing watermelon and cucumber might seem like an odd friendship, but it really works. Use fresh mint, not dried, and make sure it's peppermint, not spearmint.
Good/Better/Best Scrambled Eggs
Another one from Eric:
"Linda, I did eggs for breakfast today. Gabe likes them "omelet" style which he means as fluffed up with no ingredient save some milk. Now I am sure you have this covered in your index but please direct me."
Some people want the French-style of creamy scrambled eggs, some want a soft (but not custardy) egg, and others want something firm and dry.
How much milk to add depends on how you want your eggs at the end of the story. Personally, I’m of the school that doesn’t introduce milk at all. The cooks at Bonappetit agree with my method. Here is how they do it.
But the cooks at Serious Eats recognize that there are different strokes for different folks. Here is a link to their recipes. Scroll down past the photo of the eggs and you will find links to “fluffy scrambled eggs,” “soft scrambled eggs,” and “French-style soft, spoonable.”
How to Conquer Biscuits
This final one was from Bill Holland via Facebook:
"I just baked biscuits from scratch for the first time. It's hard to believe I could screw up biscuits that badly, but I did."
Bill, several years ago I wrote an article entitled "How to Make Perfect Biscuits." If you click on that phrase you will be magically transported to that page. I hope this helps.
What Kind of Fish Can I Use for Ceviche?
"When my daughter was on vacation (before the pandemic hit) they had ceviche. Is that something I can make with tilapia or is it saltwater fish"?
Mary, just about any firm white fish can be used for ceviche, and tilapia certainly fits in that category. You want a firm fish because the marinade softens the texture of the fish—you don't want flabby ceviche. Second, you want a fish that is fairly mild in flavor so that the fish will absorb (not overpower) the flavor of the other ingredients.
Here's a good recipe for ceviche made from tilapia.
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.
Want To Do This Again?
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.