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

Updated on February 20, 2019
Carb Diva profile image

Exploring 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.

Source

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...

Source

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.

Source

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?

Source

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?

Source

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 lindalum52@gmail.com.

© 2018 Linda Lum

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    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      11 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Linda

      Its intereating what those things show up.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Lawrence, so good to hear from you! Your reference to the Vikings made me laugh. I recently bought one of those kits that allows you to get your DNA tested to discover your ancestry. I thought I was strictly British Isles and German-Russian. Scandinavian popped up too!

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      11 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Linda

      This hub brought a smile. You see, we have a neighbour who has 'chooks' in their yard, and one of them is an escape artist!

      They're meant to be secured in a chicken coop, but 'Missy' has a habit of getting out, and finding her way to our house, that would be fine, but our two cats would make a meal of her!

      There's also a story (you might be interested in) on how certain Middle Eastern foods found their way into Scandinavian cuisine.

      The Vikings are to blame! See they were so fierce that their reputation spread to the courts of Byzantium, and the Byzantine Emperor's personal bodyguard were all Viking!

      The Vikings used to trade down the Volga river, and Viking traders carried back the recipes and spices they fell in love with (Dolma or stuffed Vine leaves was one of the dishes, Dill was one of the spices)

      Here endeth the History lesson.

      Lawrence

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Hi Lilly. Actually, I wrote an article about "Perfect Cinnamon Rolls" in November 2017. We're not supposed to "self-promote" in our comments, so I can't share the link, but if you do a Google search for "perfect cinnamon rolls AND hubpages" you will find it.

    • profile image

      Lilly 

      12 months ago

      Do you have a recipe for ooey, gooey cinnamon rolls like Cinnabon? They are the ones with the cream cheese frosting

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Shauna, h ave you been peeking? How did you know that next week I will be talking about the zester (aka microplane)? It's another tool that I can't do without.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      12 months ago from Central Florida

      Linda, I love the addition of your favorite things. Two items I've been meaning to add to my kitchen utensil collection are the spider and a zester. I have a little hand-held grater, but its holes are a bit too large to produce a fine zest. I've been using a slotted spoon for scooping, but the spider certainly would be more effective.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      12 months ago from london

      Thank you so much Linda.

      I really thought that my question was about the Pierogi and you did an excellent piece on it. Now I remember this question. In Ghana they look pale and in Tanzania, like the West. At least in the places I went to in 2013.

      I thought of ... what is this word they used now for artificially producing on a large scale? Forgot. At least you have given me a good answer. Great!!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Brian, in late summer when the pickling cucumbers are being sold at the grocery store and/or Farmers Markets, there is always fresh dill available as well. I love the aroma. That fragrance reminds me of my mom's pantry where we kept the crocks for making pickles.

      I'm sure that knife was wonderful, but used in the garden? Oh the horror. Glad you found it and gave it new purpose again.

      Thanks for writing; hope you have a wonderful day.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      12 months ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

      Dill is also used in Minnesota north woods cuisine. My grandmother grew dill in her garden and used it in salads and when turning cucumbers into pickles. My mother did the same in Illinois. My grandmother had a French Canadian background.

      Re favorite kitchen tools, when I was in high school in the late 1950s, or maybe in college in the early 1960s, I bought my mother a Sabatier chef's knife for either her birthday or Christmas. Decades later when I was back home for a visit, she broke the tip off using the knife for gardening. I've had that knife for some years now and still use it just about daily for slicing and dicing vegetables.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Audrey, you have made me so happy. Thank you for your kind words, support, and encouragement.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      12 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      I love this series! I remember when you first started this idea. It has certainly done well. I eat plenty of eggs so mantita's question about the egg yolks suited me just fine. Glad I stick with organic eggs. Thanks again Linda.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Mary. Thank you for your kind words. As for your question about sourdough. I've had an article for making sourdough simmering on the figurative back burner for some time. I'd best bring it to the front of the stove.

      Will it work for you in the tropics? Gosh, I have no idea (it was used in the Yukon during the Gold Rush, which is about as far from your circumstance as possible). I will research and answer for you next week.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      12 months ago from Brazil

      Free range and I mean real free-range eggs taste so much better than store-bought. Sadly our chickens were so destructive they had to go.

      Interesting about the raisins, I will pass the information on to my sister.

      I never knew those nests could be cooked to retain their shape, so that was a new one on me.

      I can see the benefit of a spider basket. I may have to get one.

      Regarding dill, here they don't use it much except as a tea. I need to plant some so I can have a ready supply.

      Interesting questions and answers.

      I have a question about sourdough bread. Can I, living in the tropics, make it or will it mold instead of going sour?

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, I am humbled that you would compare my food to your mom's. Thank you friend.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      12 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Well slap me down and red my but with wooden spoon. (really bad but my mom would;-) Actually a bunch of fun when you stole some of her cooking before time. Brian my brother always got me in trouble that way.

      So I have this most excellent lady who brings that all back.Bless you friend. "A courtroom or pulpit is to judge, a good woman's kitchen is to make fun and love"

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, all of us have that "one thing" that we just can't stomach. For me it's beets (and offal, and lamb/mutton).

      I hope you live close enough to your brother that you can enjoy that wonderful bounty. Fresh eggs from happy hens sounds wonderful.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      12 months ago from USA

      My brother has free range chickens and his girls have really orange yolks. It’s neat when they have occasional yolk doubles. Enjoyed the spaghetti nests too. Dill to me is like kryponite to Superman. Just can’t do it.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Thanks, Bill. Life is good.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Without a doubt more flavor from an organic egg....no contest in test...this comes from a man who knows his eggs. :)

      Guilty? Yes, for the same reasons...my life is almost too good!

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