Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Mom Cooking Tip 141

If your bananas or avocados are taking too long to ripen, put them in a paper bag, close the bag and set aside for a day or two.  Check occasionally to make sure they’re not over-ripening. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Mom’s Basic Bootcamp: Corn

Until recently I took corn for granted.  I kept a can or two on hand to serve as an emergency vegetable but seldom actually did so.  Occasionally I’d buy a box of frozen corn and then forget it was in the freezer.

I have always favored fresh corn.  It reminds me of summers in Western Pennsylvania.  My father was a big corn lover, and being in a semi-rural area we often bought a dozen ears from a roadside stand and ate them all in one sitting.

Back in those days I remember hearing that if you didn’t eat freshly picked corn within six hours, it would be tough.  I never figured out if that was true.  To unsophisticated me, corn tasted like corn.  Since then food engineers have researched how to control corn’s sweetness, so today almost all ears of corn taste good for at least a few days.

I try to cook corn the day I buy it, although I don’t always succeed.

But whenever I do cook it, I strip off the husks and silks and boil the cobs for no more than 2 minutes.  I tried microwaving but had a bad result.  Cooking a dozen ears of corn in the microwave sounds like pure torture.

And I definitely did not follow the lead of my friend, who insisted that corn needs to boil for 45 minutes. 

Some people boil corn with the husks still on, stripping them away when the corn is ready to heat.  That’s too messy for me.

Leftover cooked corn on the cob can be heated in a dry frying pan for a few minutes per side, allowing some of the kernels to turn brown.  Or cut the kernels off and add them to soups, stews, salads, salsa, fritters, stuffing, cooked rice or homemade cornbread. 

One day I sawed straight through the uncooked cob with a bread knife to cut 1-inch circles.  I threaded them onto a skewer, along with other vegetables, and grilled them for a few minutes.  Another time I tossed those corn circles in with other vegetables I was roasting.  The effect was highly dramatic. 

Fun fact: an average ear of corn contains about 800 kernels.  Who would have guessed?

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Joys of a Food Scale

During my 20s, if the recipe said 3 ounces of sugar or 450 grams of flour, I automatically thought to myself, “I’m not making that.”  I didn’t know how to measure 3 ounces or 450 grams because I didn’t have a food scale and I was too lazy to get one.

This went on for years until I moved to London, where the Metric System was in full swing.  If I hoped to follow any recipe exactly, I had to invest in a scale.  The only downside was that the scale took up a lot of cupboard space. Digital models were not yet available, so I had to buy what was out there.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Goat Cheese – How to Use It

 Occasionally my bargain-hunting outruns my common sense, and I buy way too much of an ingredient because it’s on sale.  About a week ago an irresistible double package of goat cheese landed in my shopping cart.

Once I got it home I began to wonder what I was going to do with 20 ounces of this soft white cheese.  I took one package to a dinner party.  The other sat forlornly in the cheese drawer for a week until I remembered a quiche recipe an English friend sent me.  Conveniently it called for goat cheese.

The directions said

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Question for Mom

Why does chocolate sometimes have a grayish cast or gray streaks when I take it out of its wrapping?  --Fred B.

Most likely there’s been a big change in temperature in the area where you’re storing the chocolate.  Experts call this color change “chocolate bloom.”  Technically the cocoa butter in the chocolate rises to the surface when the chocolate gets warm.  When it cools, the cocoa butter turns gray.  Another cause can be sugar rising to the surface of the chocolate when there’s high humidity.  When any surface moisture evaporates, the sugar crystals are visible.

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Emergency Chicken Soup

Whenever I think of chicken soup, I think of my grandmother.  She served her homemade version to the family every Friday night.  This was back in the days when whole chickens, not beautifully prepacked chicken parts, were sold in grocery stores. 

One of the most exciting aspects of her soup was the possibility of tiny cooked egg yolks popping up in the soup bowl.  At the time you could get real chickens seemingly straight from the farm, and these chickens had unlaid eggs in various stages of development inside them.  The downside was you had to gut and clean the chickens yourself.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Mom Cooking Tip 140

Don’t cover chocolate when you’re melting it.  Drops of condensation may fall into the chocolate and ruin it.  Instead, put the chocolate in a thick-bottomed frying pan over very low heat and stir until the chocolate is about half-melted.  Turn off the heat and let the chocolate sit in the pan.  The residual heat of the pan will cause the rest of the chocolate to melt.

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