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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers Foods, Recipes, & Cooking, #36

Updated on February 20, 2019
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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

I feel guilty. Not a soul-crushing, consuming sense of iniquity or indiscretion, there is really no regret or feeling of culpability. No, my self-condemnation stems from bliss.

I'm happy!!

Other than the aches and pains that come from almost seven decades on this earth, my health is good. (If it hurts, at least you know you're alive). My children are happy. My garden is bursting with colors and scents and LIFE. And I have an opportunity to not only share my smattering of cooking knowledge with you, I also have the good fortune of learning with you as I research for answers to your questions.

Great questions in the mailbox this week, so let's get started.

Which Cultures Use Dill?

This question was prompted by my article "Flavors of the World: Dill of Europe and Western Asia" in which I provided recipes from Norway, Russia, and Turkey.


Dill grows like a weed, and like a weed, it pops up everywhere. Dill is famous in Scandinavian foods, and as noted in the aforementioned hub, in Russian and Middle East foods as well.

However, following well-worn Eurasian trade routes, dill also made its way into Indian cuisine, where it is used in dal with lentils or fried with other spices. Or it might be used in a tadka.

Tadka is a cooking technique that has been used in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka for hundreds of years. It's what helps make the food of this area so aromatic and flavorful. Tadka (tempering in English) is the roasting of whole spice seeds in oil or ghee to release their essential oils. Although tadkas vary from region to region, most begin with the same simple base of mustard seed and cumin. Once they begin to sizzle they should be removed from the heat (one moment too soon and your seeds will scorch). Then other aromatic herbs and seasonings are added according to the taste you want for your finished dish (fresh chilis, curry leaves, dill weed or seed, garlic, onion, tomato, or powdered spices).

And now, allow me to introduce...


In Episode #10 of this Question & Answer series, I began to share a lexicon of strange, odd, unusual and often misunderstood cooking terms. Our alphabetical journey came to an end last week with #35. So, today we begin a new topic.

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. Here's the first one for your consideration.

This spider doesn't scare me!
This spider doesn't scare me! | Source

Along Came a Spider

The first kitchen tool that I simply cannot live without is the...

Stainless Steel Mesh Spider. This skimmer is popular in Asian cooking, used for scooping blanched vegetables or noodles from a boiling pot of water or retrieving crispy, fried items from bubbling-hot oil. But that's just the beginning. It's good for refreshing things—like dunking precooked noodles into pho, or pasta into boiling water to reheat.

Speaking of pasta—have you ever tried to retrieve small shaped or stuffed pasta (not long strands of spaghetti or linguine) with a pasta spork? It can't be done. Spider to the rescue.

The web-like wire (yes, that's why it's called a spider) drains efficiently and quickly and the handle is purposely made long to keep your hands far away from the heat of bubbling oil or boiling water.

The average price for a spider skimmer is $10.00.

And now, back to your questions.

How To Cook Nests of Pasta

How do you get the little pasta birds nests to stay intact in boiling water? Mine come undone and end up as loose spaghetti.


Instead of boiling in a large pot, I have managed to keep mine intact by gently simmering in a large shallow pan, just deep enough to completely cover the pasta with water.

Nudge them occasionally with a fish spatula so that they won't stick to the bottom of the pan. If you need to cook a lot of them, you might have to do so in several batches.

Soaking Raisins

Why is it important to soak raisins before baking with them?


I don't think that soaking raisins is mandatory. I would take it on a case by case (or grape by grape) basis. If your raisins seem plump and moist, simply use them from the container. But if they appear a bit stale, dry, and more wrinkly than Aunt Harriet, by all means, give them a spa treatment.

Why? If your raisins (or any dried fruit) are excessively dry they will pull the moisture right out of your baked goods, making them stale and lifeless in a hurry.

To plump raisins for baking, place them in a bowl and pour over boiling water. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, drain, and use. If you want to add additional flavor, soak them in hot juice or hot water mixed with bourbon or rum. Try to use a soaking liquid that complements the other flavors in the recipe.

Why Are Some Egg Yolks More Colorful?

"What makes some egg yolks so yellow and yet others so pale inside?


Manatita, many people assume that the color of the egg is dependent upon the breed of the hen, or that a darker yolk shows that the egg is more nutritious. Well, here's the real story. The color of the yolk is all dependent on the diet of the chicken that produced the egg.

When compared to a grocery store egg, an organic egg typically has a much more robust orange color, but why? Hens that are given feed full of yellow-orange pigments will lay eggs with darker yolks. It’s as simple as that! No artificial coloring is allowed in chicken feed, but some farmers will add marigold petals to give yolks an orangey color boost. Reddish yolks are made possible by adding capsicum (i.e. red bell peppers) to chicken feed, and throwing in a dash of paprika can have the same effect.

More nutritious? Not necessarily, but more flavor? I happen to think so, and I'm not alone in that theory. So if you want a better-tasting egg (from a hen that was perhaps raised in a more humane environment) opt for the organic egg.

That's It for Another Week!

That was a fun mailbox. Have a wonderful week my friends, and don't be shy. If you have a question I'm here to help. If you want to remain anonymous, you can email me at

© 2018 Linda Lum


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