Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes & Cooking, #8
I sincerely hope that all of you had a wonderful week. In the United States, we celebrated Thanksgiving Day. I am thankful for friends, family, and the ability to write about my passion--food preparation, food history, and how sharing food and the memories that go with it give us a common ground and unite us all.
The first letter in my mailbox was this from Rochelle:
Seasoning: How to Do It Right
How much tasting do you do when you cook? I am finding that my sense of taste and smell is less sensitive than some other people in my family who seen to be "super tasters"... I'm hesitant to salt or spice some things to my taste when I know others might not be pleased.
Many cooks proudly proclaim “I don’t use salt”, but when asked what they think makes restaurant foods taste so GOOD, they admit “it’s probably the salt.” However, that doesn’t mean that you should grab your salt shaker whenever you prepare a meal for your family. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- The type of salt that you use is important. Don’t use table salt. To season your cooking, choose either Kosher salt or sea salt. Why? Both of these are coarser; the grains stick to food and it’s easier to grab and distribute a small pinch of coarse salt than table salt.
- Keep your distance. This might feel silly, but release that pinch of salt from 10 to 12 inches from the dish you are seasoning. This will help you more evenly distribute the salt (and not use so much).
- Don’t wait to season at the end of cooking. As you add ingredients (unless you are adding something which is on its own decidedly salty such as bacon, soy sauce, or capers) take a taste. Stop and really think about the flavors your tongue is discerning, and then add salt if needed. Keep in mind, however, that salt is not meant to make food taste salty. Its purpose is to enhance the flavors of the food.
- Remember, the saltiness of food can change as it simmers, as it cools, if it is stored overnight in the refrigerator.
- There are other seasonings and flavorings that can be used to enhance or “brighten” the flavor of foods. Instead of relying solely on salt and pepper, consider learning how to use some of the items I'll mention below.
- The age of the spices called for in your dish can make a difference. Fresh herbs are usually preferable (I think oregano is an exception—dried oregano leaves taste better).
- I mentioned “brightness.” Sometimes if you think a dish needs more salt, it might actually need a bit of acidity. Citrus, wine, and vinegar can give that special snap to a dish to make it shine.
- Other seasonings that add a bit of saltiness, but also provide a more complex taste are the umami flavors. Tomato paste, soy sauce, anchovies, and Worcestershire could be just what you need.
- Maybe the flavors are all there, but somehow just aren’t coming together. A bit of richness (which is more about how the food feels in your mouth as opposed to how it tastes) could be the key. A pat of butter (added off the heat) or a splash of heavy cream could be the uniting factor.
- And, if you find that you’ve overdone it? That little bit of cream or butter could be your salvation.
How To Help Your Child to Not Be a Picky Eater
What are techniques to get children over the hump of thinking they do not like a certain food? I find that it is some kind of preconceived notion.
Eric, I feel that I won the parent jackpot. Neither of my girls was a picky eater. I know you agree with me that the family table should be a happy place; it's the one place where we can still be united as a family, discuss the day's events, share stories, and have a good time. This isn't the arena for a power struggle. So, what to do? Here's some free advice from the person who never experienced the problem (you get what you pay for):
- This is family time. No interruptions. Let the answering machine take care of the ringing phone, no personal devices, no cell phones. This also means that if you get finished with your meal before your little person, just cool your jets. If you signal that it's time to move on to something else, the little man won't want to stay at the table by himself.
- It's OK to say "no thank you" to an offered food. But it's not cool to make rude comments like "gross" or "yuck." Someone worked hard to make that food (even if it was only opening a package).
- A brand new food might be best approached in stages. This works particularly well with vegetables. The first step is involvement—picking out the vegetable at the market. Maybe helping to wash the vegetable. Gabe is a little young to be wielding a knife, but maybe he could pull the outer leaves off of a cauliflower (for example). He could add the garnish (sprinkle with some cheese), put it in a serving dish—with help, maybe even serve everyone at the table this amazingly wonderful food that he helped with.
- The texture is also an issue for some little kids. At the age of 6 or 7, he doesn't have all of his teeth yet so managing something that requires a lot of chewing could cause a problem. You mentioned (in another comment) a dislike for egg yolks. Maybe he would be more accepting if the yolks were soft. He could think of them as a sauce into which he can dip toast cut into sticks.
- If a food is refused, don't give up on it forever. Try to introduce it again in a few days (but not so often that you yourself grow weary of it).
- When he does try something new, offer a bit of praise. "You were brave to try something new." "You're teaching your mouth to like something new."
- No rewards or bribery for eating. "If you eat all of your peas you get dessert" or "just three more bites and you can watch TV." That places the emphasis, the "what's really important" on an activity other than eating.
- If a food is refused, or not finished just ignore it. Avoid the drama. Don't offer a substitute. And, when the meal is over, it's over. The kitchen is closed until the next meal. (That's a tough one, I know).
A Recipe for Semolina Pudding (Greis), and Can You Make Something Even Better?
I like the semolina pudding here in Heidelberg. They call it Greis or Greis brie. Can you surpass the Germans? One for next week.
Manatita, you had me scratching my head for a moment or two. I know what semolina is; I use it when I make homemade pasta. I wondered "how could you use that to make pudding?" And then I did a Google search and had an "aha" moment. What you are calling semolina is what we in the States have in a box on the cereal shelf at the grocery store. Cream of Wheat.
This is the cereal of my childhood. When I don't feel like making eggs and hash browns but am in serious need of some comfort food on a chilly morning, I reach for my box of Cream of Wheat. A steaming bowl with a pat of Irish butter and a sprinkle of brown sugar and I'm a happy girl once again.
So, let's start with a recipe for Gries. For that, I went to the source, aka Nicole James. She is an art historian studying for her Ph.D. She and her husband live in Europe where they both love to travel and "explore via food and cooking, rediscovering old recipes, traditions and cooking methods." Basically, tinkering in the kitchen, just like me. Her blog is named TheJamesKitchen.
Several years ago she replicated the pudding she recalled from her childhood in Germany.
enough for a little mould & 6 small glasses
- 700ml (3 cups) milk
- 160ml (¾ cups) single cream
- 80g (4 tablespoons) caster sugar or less
- 80g (½ cup) semolina or cream of wheat (German: Weizengrieß)
- Add milk, cream, and sugar to a saucepan and bring to a slow boil.
- Stir to dissolve the sugar and add the semolina. If you want a firmer pudding that holds its shape when unmoulded, add another tablespoon of semolina.
- Stir and simmer for about 3-4 minutes. Pour into glasses or ramekins or in your preferred mould and leave to cool.
Manatita, the only thing I would add to this is perhaps a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
And, the Challenge?
Now, as for your challenge, I can’t promise a better-tasting pudding, but I can offer a historical, truly American pudding, a pudding many of us baked this past weekend as part of our national recognition of Thanksgiving Day.
Indian pudding is a baked dessert thickened not with semolina but with cornmeal because that was the grain available to the colonists in the 17th century. Historians think this cornmeal pudding was an adaptation of the British “hasty pudding,” to use ingredients available in the New World.
My first taste of Indian pudding was 25 years ago at the first Thanksgiving meal with our new neighbors. Just weeks before we had moved into a rural farmhouse in a tiny little coastal town in Washington State (population about 6,000). Our next door neighbors welcomed us into their home and offered a traditional New England meal, grounded by their Connecticut roots. Unfortunately, I never obtained the recipe. (The sweet lady who prepared that wondrous meal for us passed away two months ago). However, this one tastes very much like what she so lovingly prepared for us.
The Perfect Soft-Cooked Egg
My ex and I had a falling out over soft-boiled eggs. Basically my lack of skill at getting them perfect. Well lo and behold I read a cookbook by Delia Smith which explained the difficulties associated with cooking them perfectly. Perhaps you could discuss the best way of getting a perfectly soft boiled egg.
Mary, what can we do about the elusive perfect soft-cooked egg? Perhaps it's so difficult to achieve because we can't agree on what is "perfection". I want the whites firm but the yolk just barely set at the edges. I want a puddle in the midst of that egg. Your ex might have had other ideas. (Frankly, I would have handed him the simmering pot and told him to make his own darned egg!).
Let me introduce you to Kenji López-Alt, the Managing Culinary Director of "Serious Eats" and James Beard Award-nominated column The Food Lab (in which he unravels the science of home cooking.)
His treatise on perfectly cooking an egg might leave you exhausted and gasping for breath (he's THAT thorough). So, before you start to follow this link, you might want to fetch a big mug of coffee (or beverage of your choice) and then settle into a comfortable chair for a long sit, but a good read.
And, Another One Bites the Dust
This wasn't a bulging mailbox, but the answers took some research (which I love) and more than the usual amount of writing (which I love even more). Thanks for another fun one. Keep those questions coming and I'll do my best to not disappoint next week.
© 2017 Linda Lum