Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes, and Cooking, #65
What Are Your Resolutions?
'Tis the end of the year; a time when we all become a bit nostalgic, looking back over the events of the year—the pluses and minuses, the happy occasions and the sad occurrences. I know that there is no point in dwelling on the past. However, I did write on this very topic about one year ago on my personal blog. I entitled it "Thoughts from My 60-Something Self to My 20-Something Self." The link is here, but allow me to share the highlights with you:
- Travel - When you visit places other than home turf you meet new people, gain new perspectives, you discover, and you grow. If and when you can, travel.
- Read - Read every day. Read out of your comfort zone. Read to learn and to grow.
- Relationships - Trust everyone...once. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Most people you meet will be average, a few will be total disappointments, and a select few will be amazing.
- Time - Don't waste your time, and don't waste the time of others. Respect the gift of time.
- Failure - All of us fail at some point in our lives. Failing is stumbling and then trying again. Failure is stumbling and giving up.
- Perspective - Do you remember the angst of your teens, how it seemed that there were so many insurmountable crises, how no one could possibly imagine the stress you were under? And then somehow you were in your 20's, your 30's and so on? You survived. Maybe it wasn't pretty, but you moved from one decade to the next. We do. We cope. We adjust.
Time changes everything. And that's the whole point of this section. Don't worry about the coulda/woulda/shoulda.
Be patient. Plan in decades. Think in years. Live in days.
Now, It's Time for Some Questions
The mailbox was full of interesting queries this week. The first one is from Mary who says:
I've recently read a book about life in India and would like to know about making chai in my home.
Mary, in the United States chai is thought of as a particular flavor of tea. But in India, chai is tea, so when you say "chai tea" you are actually saying "tea tea." And if you visit someone's home in India, there is a 100 percent chance that chai will be served.
Chai culture in India developed out of British colonization. When the British East India Company was thriving tea from Assam, India was one of its biggest commodities. Tea consumption in India grew, and eventually, Indians took the British preparation of tea—black with milk and sugar—and put their own spin on it, with the addition of spices such as ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.
In most big cities, you'll find chaiwallas (vendors who specifically sell chai) on every corner, with enormous kettles full of simmering chai. There are regional variations but for the most part, the basic components of chai are the same: tea, milk, spices, and sweetener.
Here are the basic components:
- Milk - always whole milk
- Spice - Cardamom is the flavor that makes us sit up and take notice when we enjoy a cup of chai. It is unlike the other spices with which we are so well accustomed (cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, although those are used as well but in smaller quantities). Black pepper, coriander, and fennel have also been known to make a guest appearance.
- Sweetener - Unrefined cane sugar is most common but difficult to source. White granulated sugar could be used to, but I prefer the sweet-bitter flavor of brown sugar.
Here's a basic recipe for you to try. Obviously, this makes quite a bit of tea; you can halve the amounts if needed.
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 10 whole cloves
- 8 cardamom pods
- 1 star anise
- 2-inch piece fresh ginger, cut into thin rounds
- Pinch of cayenne
- 4 cups cold water
- 6 bags of black tea (preferably Darjeeling)
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
- Coarsely grind the 1st 5 ingredients with a mortar and pestle. Place ground spices, ginger, and pepper in a large saucepan with water; bring to boil over high heat.
- Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover pan, and simmer gently 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Add tea bags and steep 5 minutes. Discard tea. Add milk and sugar.
- Bring tea just to simmer over high heat, whisking until sugar dissolves. Strain chai into a teapot and serve hot.
Of course, you can adjust the amounts of spices, tea, and brown sugar to suit your own particular tastes.
And, From the Christmas Brunch
Did you know that there is a Table of Contents for this series? I have created an article that provides a detailed listing of each question I've received. It's broken down by category, and within each category, the questions are listed alphabetically. Each question is actually a hotlink back to the original post.
Here's a link to that Table of Contents.
If you like this series, you'll love this! Consider it my gift to you.
For 31 years Cooking Light magazine taught us how to eat light, eat healthily, reduce fat and sodium . . . and not feel deprived. Their remakes of old standard dishes and innovative food and flavor combinations opened a new world to cooking (and eating) enthusiasts. Sadly the December 2018 publication was their final issue. I have been a subscriber since their infancy; they will be sorely missed by me and countless others.
But their legacy lives on thanks to the internet. This remake of the classic "New England Clam Chowder" has all of the briny flavor and creamy richness you would expect from a bowl of New England chowder, but with much, much less guilt.
I am working on an article on the perfect clam chowder and hope to have that available for you in the near future. But in the meantime, here is the Cooking Light version which, I promise, will not disappoint.
- 4 pounds littleneck clams (about 4 dozen), scrubbed
- 4 cups plus 1 Tbsp. water, divided
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 1/4 cups chopped yellow onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-in. pieces (about 7 cups)
- 1 tablespoon white miso
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- Bring clams and 4 cups water to a boil in a large pot over high. Cook until clams open, 8 to 10 minutes. (Discard any clams that do not open.) Using a large slotted spoon, transfer clams to a large baking sheet lined with paper towels; set cooking liquid aside. Let clams stand until cool enough to handle. Pull meat from shells; discard shells. Coarsely chop clam meat and set aside.
- Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium. Add onion, celery, and garlic; cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Add reserved clam cooking liquid, potatoes, miso, thyme, pepper, and bay leaf; cook until potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.
- Transfer 2 cups of the chowder to a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped, about 6 times. Stir mixture into remaining chowder.
- Whisk together cornstarch and remaining 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl until smooth. Stir cornstarch mixture into chowder; bring to a boil over medium-high. Remove from heat; discard bay leaf. Stir in clam meat and half-and-half until combined. Divide chowder evenly among 6 bowls. Top with chives.
How Best to Cook Bacon
I forgot to ask you about bacon. I fry it but when I worked at a restaurant, they used to cook it in the oven. This was in the UK and it was what they call back bacon. I personally prefer, what is called 'streaky bacon' because it is similar to the US type. Is there a best way to cook bacon that will be consumed for example with a breakfast as a side to eggs?
Mary, step into any professional kitchen and you will find that all of them cook their bacon in the oven, not on the stovetop. It's expedient and frees up the cooking surface for other wonderful treats (such as fried eggs and hashbrowns. Yum).
My friend Kenji at the Serious Eats food lab swears by this method and gives us all the facts (he is very precise and methodical) right here. He played with various temperatures (from 325 to 475 degrees F) to find the sweet spot for perfect taste and texture. Kenji also tested four methods of cooking:
- Directly on a baking sheet,
- on a wire rack (on top of a baking sheet),
- on a crimped piece of foil, and even
- between two baking sheets.
Now, I don't mean to contradict Mr. Lopez-Alt, but in the 'almost-final' issue of the aforementioned cooking magazine (Cooking Light) they were striving to achieve the healthiest baked bacon (adding one more element). So, they lowered the temperature a bit and found that a cold-start technique (they placed the bacon in a cold oven rather than a pre-heated oven) rendered 55 percent more fat! Their perfect baking temperature for this method was 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes.
I want to thank each and every one of you for being here. Without your questions (and encouragement) this series would not be.
- I am happy to do the research on topics of which I know (barely more than) nothing and I enjoy learning with you.
- I am passionate about food history and sharing that knowledge with others.
- I believe in the "community" of eating. Food is how we connect with others. At a shared table, families unite—events of the day are exchanged, children learn, relationships are nurtured, and dreams blossom.
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.
I hope is that we can continue share in this food journey together. If you have questions about foods, cooking techniques, or nutrition you can ask them here. If you are in search of an old recipe or need ideas on how to improve an existing one I can help you. If you want to learn more, let's do it together. Present your questions, your ideas, your comments below. Or, you can write to me personally at this email address: email@example.com.
© 2018 Linda Lum