Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes, and Cooking, #39
A dear friend asked me about my impression of Julia Child. That question and my response are given below, but it also prompted me to look at some of Julia's famous quotations. Here's one I can really relate to:
Of course, I made many boo-boos. At first, this broke my heart, but then I came to understand that learning how to fix one’s mistakes, or live with them, was an important part of becoming a cook.— Julia Child, "My Life in France"
Let's Get Started
Here's how this weekly Q&A works. If you have cooking questions, need a recipe, or need help in understanding a term or technique, leave your question in the comments section below or send me an email at email@example.com.
Now, let's look at the questions that came to my mailbox last week.
What Do You Think of This Legendary Cook/Chef?
Here's a fun question from Eric. "What do you think of Julia Child"?
Some of you who either live outside of the United States or were born in the latter part of the 20th century might not recognize the name Julia Child. She was an American chef, author, and television personality. She is recognized for bringing French cuisine to the American public with her debut cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and her subsequent television programs, the most notable of which was The French Chef, which premiered in 1963.
Eric, I loved Julia Child. She wasn't afraid to show her mistakes. Once when a layer cake started to fall apart, Julia just scooped up a huge dollop of frosting and covered it all up. Parfait! She flipped an omelet and the thing was an eggy wreck. No problem. She just grabbed the spatula and smooshed it back together. Voila!
One of my favorite lines from her is, “Always remember: if you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who’s going to know?” Compared to the perfect chefs of today, who serve up a “lifestyle” out of ordinary reach, Julia Child was perfect in her imperfection. She was human.
Making Sourdough in Warm Climates
From Mary (who lives in Brazil) - I have a question about sourdough bread. Can I, living in the tropics, make it or will it mold instead of going sour?
Mary, I did a lot of poking around on the internet and found these tips at the sourdoughlibrary.org which I think will apply to your environment:
I live in Bangkok where it’s pretty much hot all year round so I definitely feel the pain of those who want to get started with their sourdough baking but struggle to maintain their starters. After several tries I was finally able to maintain a strong active starter which is now 4 months old. So I think it might be helpful to share success story here.
The temperature in Bangkok goes above 30C almost year-round, except for a few weeks of “winter” when it drops to around 25C. I started my starter during that time. For my starter, I used rye flour and 100% hydration. Everything went well, I feed my starter every 12 hrs, but after two weeks or so the temperature went up to above 30C again.
Here’s what I do when it gets warm/hot:
- Use cold water to feed your starter
- Put the starter jar in a water bath… with some ice if it’s real hot at the time. (That’s what I do now when it’s 35-39C) But just put enough ice so that the water is kept cool, don’t put so much that it becomes an ice bath!
- If the starter seems to have reached it peak really quickly, try to shorten the feedings to 10hrs
- I put my starter in the fridge after about a month and a half. I take them out to feed once a week. Before putting them in the fridge, I feed my starter and put it back in the fridge as soon as it reaches the peak (about 8 hrs if put in cool water bath)
And another question about starter.
Can You Freeze Friendship Bread Starter?
Here's one from Lawrence. In issue #34 we talked about Friendship Bread—a multi-purpose bread starter that was supposed to be shared with friends and neighbors, thus the "friendship" moniker.
But, just like the person who grows zucchini, you soon run out of friends willing to accept the overabundant bounty. What do you do when you are faced with containers full of starter, and your friends hide behind closed curtains when they see you approaching?
I did a Google search on this topic, and most people said that freezing would kill the starter, but these same people also incorrectly said that the cold climate would cause the "bacteria" to perish. Starter doesn't ferment because of the presence of bacteria—it's yeast! So, I take the advice of these people with a grain of salt.
Then, I found "TheFriendshipBreadKitchen" where you can find the recipe for a traditional starter (no instant pudding), lots of uses for the starter, and the advice that yes you can freeze the starter and not kill it.
Three weeks ago I introduced a new topic, explaining that each Monday I will be channeling my inner Julie Andrews and write about "A Few of My Favorite Things"—the cooking tools, equipment, and gadgets which I cannot do without. I promise that I won't be promoting expensive sous vide cookers or instant pots. Some of these might even be available at your local Dollar Store. I've told you about my indispensable spider strainer, the microplane (a very sharp rasp-like kitchen tool) and the wire mesh glove (your favorite thing if you happen to purchase a microplane).
Here's another tool that I absolutely love and want to share with you.
The Spice of Life
Back in the day, I used a mortar and pestle to grind spices. It's the way people have prepared spices for years, and years and centuries. But, arthritis has made permanent residence in my tired old fingers. It doesn't stop me, but it does require that I make a few changes in how I perform my day-to-day routines. One of those is grinding whole spices.
Enter the spice grinder.
Actually, it's nothing fancy. I found an unloved/discarded coffee grinder at a yard sale and it's PERFECT for that task that I can no longer do by hand.
Japanese Salad Dressing?
Flourish asked me "I always wondered what house dressing do they put on salads at Japanese restaurants like Kanpai? It’s amazing and I’d love to recreate it or buy it but don’t know what it is."
The salad dressing served in Japanese restaurants is creamy, slightly tangy (a hint of vinegar perhaps?), with some mild heat from garlic, a touch of sweetness, and probably some soy sauce. But there's another element that you just can't put your finger on. What gives that dressing its unique flavor?
I found a recipe at CopyKat that is absolutely spot-on:
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 1/2 tablespoons white miso
- 2 teaspoons garlic minced
- 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup rice cooking wine or mirin
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup peanut oil vegetable oil is ok
- 1/8 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix together. Store in an airtight container. The salad dressing stays fresh for about 1 week.
The Perfect(ly Easy) Poached Egg
And this one from Shauna - I loved poached eggs. I've watched a thousand tutorials on how to properly poach an egg, but they all seem a tad complicated or labor intensive. Do you have a secret to easily making perfect poached eggs?
For the perfect explanation, an answer to the hows and also the whys of perfect egg poaching, I went to Kenji (my spirit animal). He explains which eggs are best-suited for poaching (and how to test if yours are), gets rid of the complicated steps, shows you how to achieve a pretty egg, and how to save and reheat if you're cooking for a crowd.
That was a fun batch of questions. I hope all of you have a safe 4th of July celebration and a wonderful week.