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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes & Cooking, #10

Updated on May 17, 2018
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Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes... one ingredient at a time.

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

The trees (yes, more than one) are up, the halls are decked, and I've swept the cinders out of the fireplace so Santa's whiskers won't get sooty. What hasn't happened in the Carb Diva home is the usual circus of cookie baking and candy making.

I have found, much to my dismay, that once you pass the half-century mark those sweet treats last a minute on the lips and years on the hips.

What about you? Are you ready for the holidays? Looking for a special recipe or need recommendations on how to prepare your menu? I'm here to help. Let's start with a question I received last week about cooking terms.

Can You Provide a Lexicon of Cooking Terms?

So sometimes you baffle me with words I do not quite understand. I looked up "fold" today. Those definitions are all Latin to me. Is there a good normal people dictionary out there? Or could you do a capsule on strange cooking names each week? Like "saute'", best I can figure is that it means frying.

Eric, what a great question. If nothing else, this will certainly help keep this thread going for a long, long time. I'm going to start, where all good things should, at the beginning with letter "A". I'll do (as you suggested in another comment) five each week. I have no idea how long this will take, but let's begin with these five cooking terms. (And I hope you won't need a definition of zest for a while).

Aerate – To add air to an ingredient or “fluff it up” to make it lighter. A good example is the sifting of flour. Whipping butter is another. Place a stick of room temperature butter in the bowl of a mixer. Whip it and it will increase in volume. And then, consider eggs. The whites of eggs can increase 4 times their original volume when whipped to stiff peaks. Egg yolks also transform from yellow-orange “plops” to ethereal light-yellow ribbons when beaten.

Al dente – This is Italian for “to the tooth”. But, in the words of Martin Luther “What does this mean?” When pasta is cooked al dente, it is not hard to chew. Consider how pasta feels (to your tooth) when it is being transformed from raw to “just right”. Follow the directions on your package. If it says “allow 10 minutes to cook”, sample a strand of that pasta at 8 minutes. How does it “feel” in our mouth? You can bite it, but it’s not ready for sauce. In the center, you will see a whitish area of uncooked pasta that is poetically known as the anima, or soul of the pasta.

Take another check at 9 minutes? Closer, but still a bit too firm. Continue cooking until the anima barely fades. At 10 minutes. It should be easy to bite, but not soft and squishy. You don’t want your pasta to be a paste. This is especially important if you will be adding the cooked pasta to a sauce to “finish cooking”. Take, for example, macaroni and cheese. For that dish you will actually want to have your pasta a bit under-cooked, knowing that it will finish cooking (become more tender) in the oven while it simmers in the cheese sauce. If you cook it until it is tender, and THEN place it in the cheese sauce to cook, it will disintegrate into a flabby mess.

Amuse Bouche – I doubt that this will ever come up in normal conversation, but I love saying amuse bouche (ah-mooz boosh). As you might have guessed, it’s a French phrase meaning to “amuse the mouth” and tantalize the palate with a decorative, intensely-flavored small bite. Think of it as an appetizer on steroids.

Aromatics – These are the herbs, spices, (and a few vegetables) that enhance the flavor and aroma of foods. You’re probably thinking “what vegetables are used as a flavor enhancer?” Garlic certainly is. The combination of onions, celery, and carrots (known as a mirepoix or “the Holy Trinity” in Creole cooking) is a well-known basis for many soups, stew, and casserole recipes.

Artisanal - a high-quality or distinctive product made by hand in small quantities (for example, cheese, bread).

Do You Have a Recipe for Seafood Bisque, and What Exactly IS Bisque? Isn't It Just Soup?

Last night for my special occasion I got local fresh made Bisque. I added the crab. Can you recipe me up on this. I like the seafood ones but am open. And what up with Bisque as opposed to soup.


Bisque. It’s a beautiful-sounding word, isn’t it? And some restaurants use the term rather indiscriminately. (You can charge a lot more money for bisque than you can for cream of ‘whatever.’ soup). But bisque is not merely a puree in a bowl. If we’re going to get really technical (and that’s why you asked, isn’t it?) bisque is a soup that begins with a rich seafood stock made with the meat and roasted shells of crustaceans. This hearty broth is then thickened, not with flour but with cooked rice.

Guess what? No one does that. Most bisque recipes on the internet are assembled with chicken broth, canned crab meat, and a flour or cornstarch thickener. Well, almost no one does that. I did find a true bisque for you. This recipe appeared in the December 2011 issue of Saveur magazine which featured an article about the Scottish restaurant Three Chimneys. There the chef makes Partan Bree for his guests.


  • 4 lb. cooked Dungeness or blue crabs, meat removed from bodies and legs and finely chopped, shells broken into large chunks
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large yellow onions (1 thinly sliced; 1 finely chopped)
  • 12 rib celery, thinly sliced
  • 14 small bulb fennel, thinly sliced
  • 34 cup roughly chopped parsley stems, plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon whole white peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 1/3 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup cream sherry
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Creme fraiche, to garnish


  1. Heat oven to 400°. Place crab shells on a baking sheet, and bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes; let cool.
  2. Heat 4 tablespoons butter in an 8-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sliced onion, celery, and fennel; cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add crab shells, parsley stems, peppercorns, bay leaves, and sliced lemon; cook for 2 minutes. Add brandy; cook 1 minute.
  3. Add 10 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, about 1 hour. Pour through a fine strainer into a bowl; set crab broth aside.
  4. Wipe saucepan clean, return to medium-high heat, and add remaining butter. Add chopped onion; cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add rice, tomato paste, and lemon zest; cook until lightly caramelized, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add reserved crab broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook until rice is tender, about 18 minutes.
  6. Puree soup in a blender and return to saucepan over medium heat; add reserved crab meat, milk, cream, sherry, lemon juice, and paprika, and cook until meat is warmed through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Divide soup among 8 bowls; garnish each bowl with a dollop of creme fraiche and some of the parsley leaves.

How to Make Pumpkin Puree

I've been making pumpkin puree the past few days, using up the pumpkins, but I'm not terribly happy with the results. From the horse's mouth, how do you make puree?

Cut your pumpkins into wedges. Scrape out all of the yucky stuff, and then place those wedges, skin-side down on a baking sheet. Roast in a 350-degree F. oven for 45 minutes, or until they are fork-tender. Why roast instead of boiling or steaming? Believe it or not, pumpkins are about 80 percent water. Roasting makes the pumpkins give up some of that excess liquid, and it also helps to caramelize the sugars, making those squashes more flavorful.

When cool enough to handle, slice or pull off the rind. Next, bring out your food processor (I hope to goodness that you have one of those!) Or a blender. That can work too if you add a little bit of water to get things moving. Failing that, you could always use grandma’s potato masher.

At this point, if the mash seems watery, strain it through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth to get rid of the excess liquid.

Kitchen Tools Everyone Should Own

What are the essential "tools" I should get? Just your thoughts on it would be appreciated.

baking pans (8-inch, 9-inch, 9x13-inch)
box grater
casserole dishes (1-quart, 1.5-quart, 2-quart)
bread pan (9x5-inch)
Dutch oven
electric mixer
fat separator
cookie sheet (rimmed)
fish mesh strainer
flexible (fish) spatula
cutting boards (never wood)
kitchen shears
food processor
knives (chef, paring, serrated)
meat thermometer
knife sharpener
measuring cups and spoons
meat mallet
mixing bowls
rolling pin
mortar and pestle
salad spinner
potato ricer
rubber scrapers
slow cooker
silpat baking mat
saucepans (1 small, 1 medium, with lids)
stand mixer
saute' pans (1 small, 1 large)
spice grinder
slotted spoons
wire whisk
wooden spoons

Don't Leave Me In The Dark

Those were really good questions, but just a few of you are having all of the fun. Don't be bashful. I know there's a question hiding in you just dying to get out.

© 2017 Linda Lum


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    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 4 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      Yes, it is, and it's an awesome time of year!

      We're just outside the tropics, and the summer gets unbearably hot with high humidity (around 100%) so autumn is a welcome time of year!

      Winter here is usually pretty mild, and it might drop below freezing at night, but doesn't stay there!

      We also look forward to autumn's bounty! We picked our first blueberries yesterday, and the grapes will be ready at the end of next month!

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 4 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Hi Lawrence - So good to hear from you. I agree that if you can use your own home-grown produce that is so much better than store-bought.

      Hmmm, let me think about this. If I am looking forward to Spring, does that mean that Autumn is right around the corner for you?

      I pray you are well.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 4 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      I'll pass on the Crab 'Brisque' but pumpkin soup is a regular for us during winter, and the recipe we use is pretty close to the one you've got here, we never use the tins of pumpkin soup as making our own is so much cheaper!

      Actually, that's a thing that's important to us, we often 'make from scratch' simply because of the expense, and the fact that when we make them, we can make a big batch!

      Great explanation of some of the terms here, I didn't realize that 'Aldente' meant 'to the tooth'

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Kari, I'm pretty sure I heard that term on an episode of "Iron Chef". The cooking, ingredients, and presentations on that show are about as fancy-shmancy as it gets. Thank you for your support.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 6 months ago from Ohio

      I think going through the cooking terms is a wonderful idea. So many people use the internet, and don't buy cookbooks. My cookbooks have the terms, but not amuse bouche. How could I not have known about this wonderful term?

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Audrey, that's a great question. (It proves that you were paying attention). I'll discuss the mortar and pestle in Episode #12. (Number 11 is already quite lengthy. Whew!)

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 6 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      In reading your list of kitchen tools I came across mortar and pestle. I have this tool (I bought it because I like the way it looks :). My question is: what is it used for? Great article and thanks.


    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      But how many people, Manatita, will be blessed with your presence. The Bible says let your light shine. I hope you have a good day.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 6 months ago from london

      'Sweet!' Nice!

      I wish I could say this! Instead, off I go right now, carrying my rucksack et al, in the harsh cold of the current weather. Have a great day!!

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Manatita - You are so kind. I've been writing food articles for 7 years, and each of them require a bit of research. It adds up. But I've also been cooking for about 50 years. Work? No, not any more. I am happily retired.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 6 months ago from london

      I sometimes think or wonder how you do this. So much info in your head! How much research does it take? Do you have another job?

      Yet another well presented Hub and a great read. Thanks Linda.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 6 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Cool beans Linda. I know I would have to revisit the ones I've missed from last month.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, what a great question. I think I've actually written an entire article on chocolate. I'll try to resurrect that and dust if off a bit. Stay tuned.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, that's great to hear. You are a wunder-child there. I look forward to hearing from you.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Kristen - Part of my reasoning for placing blenders and slow cookers on the "intermediate" list was that they are a bit more of an investment. I'm glad you liked today's article. I plan on doing this every Monday.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, I have an article on "Exploring Pumpkin Bisque." I'll email the link to you, and include it in next week's installment. Thanks.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 6 months ago from Brazil

      I am going to add 'Amuse Bouche ' to my vocabulary. The fact that no one, other than yourself, your readers and French speakers will understand me, is beside the point.

      I always boil my pumpkin but can see the sense in roasting it for maximum flavor.

      I have a question for a future Q & A session.

      This past week I made a chocolate cake and the recipe called for 2oz of unsweetened chocolate. (It's an old Betty Crocker recipe book). Well, I used some chocolate that is more of a cake topping type you know for shavings and decoration. It works okay for chocolate chip cookies but there wasn't a lot of chocolate flavor to the cake. Thank goodness I smothered it in a buttercream frosting!

      Anyway, selecting the correct chocolate has become a minefield and you almost need a degree in chocolatology to select the right one.

      Can you shed some light on what is what in the chocolate arena for us bakers. Also, I often have chocolate powder, could I have substituted that? Mine is somewhere between Nesquick and Hersheys.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Louise, I'm glad I was able to help.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, I'm not a gadget type of gal so have really not paid much attention to the Instant Pot craze. I think one of my nieces has one, so I'll do some research and address this next week.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 6 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Linda this is great. Thank you. Those definitions are really cool. Here was a fun one with my 7 year old. He handles the phone when mom is driving. So they called to see if I needed anything. I said "if you go to the food store...." He repeated it for his mom. But added "food store means grocery store mom". Boy has he got a lot to teach me. He has also instructed me on how to "whip up" the eggs so he likes the yolks.

      So with your help you are also inspiring one more generation.

      Oh and I will be back with a question that is "brewing in the crock pot of my mind".

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 6 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great mailbag, Carb Diva. Very useful information on cooking tips with recipes. I consider myself a beginner, though I have a blender for smoothies/millshakes and have been using my slow cooker for a year.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I shall make puree this week, so thanks for the help. Meanwhile, the interior painting continues and Christmas rushes at us. All is well in our world.

      Thanks for answering my question. I had the greatest pumpkin bisque at Mt. Rainier Lodge. They only make it over the holidays but it is to die for.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 6 months ago from Norfolk, England

      The kitchen utensils was useful to know. Thanks for publishing this article, it's been very helpful.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 6 months ago from USA

      What is your opinion on the Instrant Pot that is all the new rage? Is this about as useful as past fads like the George Foreman grill, panini makers, and rotisserie chicken roasters or is it worth the $100 or so?


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