Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes, and Cooking, #53
Last week marked the one year anniversary of writing this series. I honestly didn't think it had the legs to last more than a few weeks. Thank you to all of you for continuing to ask questions and for your interest in all things foodie.
I have a quotation from M.F.K. Fisher that I want to share with you. It's lengthy, but speaks to everything I think and feel about writing for all of you.
It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.
The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water,
is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight I am more modest now, but I still think that one of the pleasantest of all emotions is to know that I, I with my brain and my hands, have nourished my beloved few, that I have concocted a stew or a story, a rarity or a plain dish, to sustain them truly against the hungers of the world.
No yoga exercise, no meditation in a chapel filled with music will rid you of your blues better than the humble task of making your own bread. A writing cook and a cooking writer must be bold at the desk as well as the stove. Too few of us, perhaps, feel that breaking of bread, the sharing of salt, the common dipping into one bowl, mean more than satisfaction of a need. We make such primal things as casual as tunes heard over a radio, forgetting the mystery and strength in both.
When I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and it is all one.
But, you're not here for philosophy. You're hungry, so let's look at the questions that came into the mailbox this week.
So Many Onions. Are They All Alike?
I'm confused about onions? How do I know which kind to buy? Are they all the same, interchangeable? Please help.
Dear Anonymous, your identity is safe with me. Now, to answer your questions, I'll borrow a page from my book "Past and Present: History of the Foods We Eat."
These are considered the universal, all-purpose onion and make up about 75 percent of the world onion production. They are astringent yet sweet, and their sweetness intensifies with low, slow cooking. They can be round and fist-sized or flattened (Italian cippolini). The sweet varieties (Vidalia, Walla Walla, and Maui) have a higher moisture content and so do not store as well.
White onions have all-white skin and flesh. They are slightly milder in flavor than the yellow onion and are a great substitute if you’re in need of an onion flavor, but don’t want it to be too powerful.
These beauties have purple outer skins and red flesh. They’re similar in taste to yellow onions. Because of their color, they are often used raw in salsas and salads. If you find that the flavor of red onions is too sharp, but you want to use them for their color, soak slices in water before preparing.
Chives are perennial, meaning that they return year after year. Unlike other members of the onion family, only the top (green) part of the plant is harvested. The bulb remains in the earth. Chives are one of the first plants to appear in early spring. They are best eaten fresh (not cooked) and are commonly used as a garnish on baked potatoes. Their cheerful purple flowers can also be eaten and make a lovely decoration on fresh salads.
Divide chives every three or four years to stimulate new growth. Chives can be started from seed or nursery transplants.
Shallots have a mild, delicate flavor and are simple to grow at home, but (oddly) are quite expensive. They have a mild but distinctive flavor that is amazing in soups and sauces. They are small, about the size of a head of garlic.
Also known as scallions; they usually have a mildly pungent flavor Scallions are long, with a white stem end that does not bulge out. They have an onion-y but mild bite that is not as intense as regular onions (the white parts contain the most intense flavor). They can be used raw or cooked, and while some cooks discard the darker green tops, the whole thing can be eaten and is often used in Asian cooking. Scallions are usually available year-round. Look for a bright color, undamaged leaves, and firm stem ends.
Like shallots, leeks are easy to grow, yet inexplicably expensive to buy at the grocery store. When small, they can be harvested like green onions. Plant them in a deep trench and mound soil around them as they grow. This "mounding" will keep the bottom of the plant from turning green. In about 120 days, when the plants are 1-inch or more in diameter, you may harvest your leeks; you will be rewarded with snow-white, tender stalks. Leeks have a mellow flavor and can be used in place of yellow onions.
Are Quail Eggs Good for Kids?
Another anonymous query.
My friend Bill Holland (you know him as billybuc) sells quail eggs. First, let me say if you have never seen them, quail eggs are absolutely adorable.
How Do Quail Eggs Compare to Chicken Eggs?
Ignore the obvious—chicken eggs are larger and are white or brown. Quail eggs are small and speckled. The ratio of yolk to white is higher in a quail egg, so the numbers for calories and cholesterol are a bit higher. But the nutritional bonuses are hard to ignore.
Of course, you can't compare one chicken egg to one quail egg. So that all things are equal, let's compare 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of chicken eggs and the same amount of quail eggs. That's 2 medium chicken eggs compared to 1 dozen quail eggs.
Yes, quail eggs score a tad higher in cholesterol but keep in mind that it's the GOOD cholesterol. Children are small, with equally small tummies and appetites, so it's important that the foods they consume are nutrient dense. Quail eggs are certainly that and children are always enchanted by foods that are cute and tiny.
How To Change Your Salmon Recipe
I want to try to make a version of your salmon recipe, will set to cracking some hazelnuts here in a bit. I have no orange marmalade (but have LOTS of other jams/jellies), no orange zest, no cranberries (but I have raisins and dates), and no fat-free mayo (just a small amount of regular mayo and whipped plain salad dressing, which is like Miracle Whip). Suggestions?
In case you missed it, here is the recipe that my niece Karin is referring to:
Hazelnut-Crusted Salmon with Dried Cranberries
- 1 pound salmon fillet, cut into 4 equal pieces
- 1/2 cup low-fat or fat-free mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon orange marmalade
- 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries, rough chopped
- 2 tsp. minced fresh tarragon
- 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2) Place salmon pieces on baking sheet, skin-side down. Stir together mayonnaise and marmalade and spread equal amounts on each piece of salmon. Top with hazelnuts, Panko, and dried cranberries. Sprinkle on tarragon, zest, salt, and pepper. Bake in preheated oven 12-15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork
Karin, orange marmalade is not a must. Any jam/jelly that is on the 'tart' side would probably work. Use whatever mayo you have—we just happen to prefer low-fat options. Honestly, I think the mayo is the key to the success of the recipe and whatever you stir into the mayo for flavoring will be fine.
I like the flavor of hazelnuts, but walnuts, pecans, or almonds would work equally well. The dried cranberries could be replaced with diced dried apricots or lemon/orange zest.
Here is the 3rd installment in our new article within an article. Each week I will feature one soup recipe; the name of the soup will be based on the letter of the alphabet. Thusfar, we've explored Albondigas and Beef Barley soups. This next soup is in my Top 10 list of comfort foods. Creamy potatoes simmer to falling-apart tenderness, rosemary adds a woodsy herbal note and cooked crumbled bacon...well, what can I say, it's bacon.
- 6 slices bacon
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup onions, minced
- ½ cup carrots, finely diced
- ½ cup celery, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 to 2 cups of chicken broth
- 2 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place bacon on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked and crisp. Remove to a rack to cool. When cool enough to handle, crumble into small bits.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, salt, black pepper, and rosemary. Sauté until soft. Add flour and stir with the vegetables for a few minutes to cook off any floury taste.
- Add milk, a little bit at a time, stirring after each addition until smooth and creamy. The soup should start out very thick and eventually thin out as you add milk. Add the potatoes, and one cup of the broth.
- Simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the potatoes are very soft. You want them falling apart (which will help to thicken the soup).
- Use an immersion blender to puree the soup. (If you don't have an immersion/stick blender, transfer the soup to a food processor or jar blender and process, following manufacturer's instructions for handling hot liquids).
- If the soup seems too thick, add enough of the second cup of broth to thin it to the consistency you want.
- When ready to serve, garnish each serving with some of the crumbled bacon.
Did You Think I Would Not Have a Picture of a Kitty?
This week I'll be busy getting the garden ready for winter, but don't worry. I've hired an assistant to handle the mailbox. Remember the rules—no question is a "dumb" question. I've been asked for dog food recipes, how to cook pork belly (with nipples attached), and even how to avoid eating disgusting food (roast guinea pig) but not offend your host. (After that last one, I think I'm shock-proof).
You may leave your questions in the comments below, or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2018 Linda Lum