Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes, & Cooking, #25
I've been asked why I care so much about food history, sharing recipes, and teaching cooking techniques. Here's a paragraph from the introduction to my book that best summarizes my passion:
"When prepared with care and conscience food can be magic—a true case of the whole exceeding the sum of its parts. Food is an art form, an amalgam of tastes and textures spanning centuries of time.
Eating is the common denominator of mankind, the one activity in which we share a mutual bond.
We may be separated by culture and continent, but food is the language that unites. Food is a part of who we are and what we have been; it is our history. Food has a story to tell."
Let's Get Started
So, if you have cooking questions, need a recipe, or help in understanding a term or technique, leave your question in the comments section below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, let's look at the questions that came to my mailbox last week.
Should Salad Greens Be Cut or Torn?
I have been wondering about salad these days. For instance, I was taught never to "cut" the greens but only to tear them. So my question is really what is the proper method for preparing the greens.
Eric, this topic is a real tempest in a teapot (or storm in a salad spinner). The discussion of cutting lettuce or ripping generates almost as much controversy as Creationism vs. Evolution, Tetzel and Luther's argument about Grace vs. Good Works, or should the toilet paper roll forward or backward.
In Home-Ec classes of the 1960's, it was drilled into my brain that a knife should never touch a lettuce leaf. I believe the rationale was that lettuce would tear along natural "seams" but a knife would bruise or crush the cells of the lettuce and induce browning.
Well, this past week I went rogue. I purchased a head of romaine lettuce. Some of the leaves I washed and tore into lovely (although irregularly-sized) pieces, and the others were washed and ribboned with a knife. Guess what happened to the leftovers? Both of them browned at the edges.
One would assume that professional chefs (I'm talking about the men who don a white toque, not the hash-slinger a the local brewpub) would know a thing or two about how best to prepare lettuce. If employing a sharp knife is verboten, then how does one explain the iceberg wedge salad?
My advice is to do whatever pleases you. If you enjoy the process of tearing lettuce leaves, by all means, go for that. If expedience is a consideration, grab that sharp, impeccably clean knife.
By the way, don't add salad dressing to those greens until you are ready to serve them. Sitting in a pool of vinegar will make the lettuce break down, go flabby, and disintegrate at a rapid rate.
Lexicon of Cooking Terms
Oh no!! We're nearing the end!!!!
Rolling boil – A very fast boil that doesn’t slow when stirred
Roux - [French] (rhymes with kangaroo). A mixture of flour and fat used to thicken sauces, soups, and stews. Though usually made with butter, roux is also made with bacon or poultry fats, margarine, and vegetable oil. The mixture is cooked for a brief time to remove the raw taste of the starch from the flour. Longer cooking results in a darker color, which is favorable in Creole cooking where a roux is cooked for long periods until it reaches a dark brown color with a nut-like flavor and aroma.
Saute - To cook and/or brown food in a small amount of hot fat.
Scald – To heat milk to just below the boiling point, until bubbles form at the edge.
Scant – As in “scant teaspoon,” not quite full.
Score – To make lengthwise gashes or slits partway through the outer layer of food to tenderize and/or form a decorative pattern. (Consider the diamond pattern typically cut in the fat side of a ham, and then stuffed with whole cloves).
How to Keep Cookies Crisp
When I make cookies, they go soft before I can put them in an airtight container. I take them out of the oven and put them on a cooling rack but because of the high humidity, they don't seem to stay firm. As soon as they are cool, I transfer them to a plastic box but they end up quite limp.
Now I don't mind a cookie that is a soft chewy sort, but even the bottom is droopy. Any thoughts other than eating them all straight away?
Mary, this is one problem I've never had to deal with (thank goodness! I don't perform well in a humid environment, nor does my hair). So I went to the Internet for words of wisdom.
- Brown sugar, honey, and molasses absorb moisture from the air, so for the crispiest cookies, go with recipes that use white (granulated) sugar.
- If crisp cookies soften, re-crisp them by baking at 300° for five minutes, and cool completely on a wire rack.
And, then I reached out to my great niece who lives in North Carolina. She recommended:
- Store them in glass containers (not plastic) after they're fully cooled.
- If moisture is still a problem they can try putting baking soda in a tea bag or coffee filter, tying or stapling it shut and putting it in the container with the cookies. The baking soda will absorb excess moisture.
I hope one of these helps.
What Can I Do With Leftover Egg Whites or Yolks?
When you have a recipe that calls for egg whites or olks only, what do you do with the other part (other than toss it)?
Flourish, I grew up in a poor household. Wasting food was akin to breaking one of the 10 Commandments, so tossing out an unused egg white or egg yolk is something that I just can't allow myself to do. Here are some hints on how to store and use those temporarily unneeded whites and yolks.
- Can be stored for 2 days in the refrigerator
- Store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Place each white in the cup of an ice cube tray. When solid you can pop out of the tray and store in a zip-lock freezer bag.
- Leftover whites can be used in meringue, frosting, or macarons. However, if you live in an area that is humid these are difficult (almost impossible) to pull off successfully. But here is something that will work:
- Brush a beaten egg white on bread before baking. The resulting baked crust will be crisp and shiny. And, that veneer of beaten whites will be the perfect adhesive for a dusting of poppy or sesame seeds.
- Egg yolks can also be stored for 2 days in the refrigerator, but tend to dry out. If you must save a yolk for later use, pour a tiny bit of water on top.
- Leftover yolks are more forgiving of the climate and can be used in many more applications. Here are some suggestions:
- Homemade mayonnaise
- Binder in meatloaf
- Pasta carbonara
This topic has inspired me. My goal is to publish an article on using a specific leftover on the 1st day of each month. Stay tuned!
I had a blast writing this article. I hope you found something of value in it as well. May you have a wonderful week.
© 2018 Linda Lum