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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking #160

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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

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Reverse Order

Today, we have a slightly different format; typically I write a short introductory paragraph, then I explain the concept of the Mailbox, invite you into my kitchen, and we address the questions that were received in the past week.

Today it's different.

I had almost completed the intro for this article, and then I received a question from our friend Eric. It was serendipitous—his question paired so perfectly with what I had been writing. (Great minds think alike). So, first I'll share Eric's question, then my intro (which is now no longer an intro?), and then attempt to answer Eric.

"Linda, I need advice from a master. No hurry and no worry. But how do you tell a beloved cook that his stuff tastes bad like he felt he had to make it and not like he was into it. No flare and no pizzazz. Can a dish be depressing?"

The Healing Art of Cooking

Last week I happened upon a beautifully written article by Regina Schrambling, a longtime food author in New York who writes Gastropoda.com and blogs at both Gastriques.blogspot.com and Epicurious.com. She is the wordsmith I long to be when I grow up. (By the way, a link to the entire article is here).

One week after the attack on our country on September 11, 2001, Regina wrote that the experience of cooking comfort food can perhaps be even more healing than the eating of that food.

She began her article with words from a friend who "had suddenly felt compelled to bake an apple pie." She went on to explain that the food made isn't the point—it's the making of it that "gets you through a bad time."

Of course, that isn't the case with everything you make in your kitchen. There's a distinction, a difference between "fixing" food and "cooking" food. One is simply instant gratification, the other is fulfilling. When you fix food, you toss ingredients together to make a meal—sandwiches, quesadillas, fish on the grill.

On the other hand, cooking is, in the words of Regina "the most sensual activity a human being can engage in, in polite company." The act of cooking engages all of our senses. She described the steps needed to begin a sumptuous pot of stew.

My stew involved smell (onions softening, Cognac reducing), touch (the chopping, the stirring), sound (that sizzle of beef cubes hitting hot fat), sight (carrot orange against the gold-brown of mustard and beef stock) and especially taste. Making it was a way to feel alive and engaged.

Sauteing beef to create a stew

Sauteing beef to create a stew

Eric, just as with every other creative process, not every meal cooked will be a gastronomic masterpiece. Some poems or prose are mere musings, not soul-stirring compositions. Not all music is a moving symphony; some is nothing more than a catchy advertising jingle.

Just as your Muse guides your fingers on the keyboard, the doyen of the kitchen must be present to spark creative genius. Forgive your cook for the uninspired meal. Eat that one for sustenance and anticipate the next offering for the opportunity it brings.

Enjoying Tofu

"And I have seen some stuff on differing tofu—is this covered well someplace? I get different uses but different kinds elude me and I like mine like meat."

Eric, you're writing this article for me. (Must I share my earnings with you?). I sense that you are not anti-tofu; the problem is squishy tofu—you want something chewier. Obviously, you won't be buying the silken variety.

Turn Tofu to Beef

  • Get a block of the extra firm stuff (it must be extra firm).
  • Wrap it in several layers of paper towels and press for 30 minutes. Put something heavy on it (a cast iron pan or large can of soup would work).
  • Cut the pressed tofu into chunks (about the size of tater tots), place on a baking sheet (pieces not touching each other), and freeze.
  • The next day (or several hours later) defrost the tofu chunks. Yes, I know this sounds crazy, but freezing the tofu alters its texture. Squeeze to release the moisture inside (there will be moisture).
  • Make a marinade of
    • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • Marinate the tofu chunks for 30 minutes to 1 hour. The most efficient way to do this in with a zip-lock bag.
  • Drain the tofu, pat dry, and saute in a shallow pan over high heat until browned. It will smell amazing. The balsamic vinegar, soy, and Worcestershire will color and flavor, and the syrup will help with caramelization.
  • Alternatively, you could bake the tofu in a 375-degree oven for about 30 minutes.

Turn Tofu to Chicken

Here's a fun video from YouTube. The music is relaxing—you can pretend that you are watching a French film with English subtitles.

Edible Mushrooms In My Corner of the World

"What are the most common edible mushrooms found in Western Washington? Asking for my wife, of course."

Bill, that's a really great question. I'll present some specific answers (because you asked), but then I'll expand the information so that people living outside of western Washington can benefit as well.

We live in the Pacific Northwest—yes, it rains here (not as much as we've let on but shhh, that's just between you and me). The upside of all that rain is dampness which encourages mushrooms and fungi to (as Mary Shelley said) go forth and prosper. There's a long (more than 30) list of edible 'shrooms in Washington, but here are the most common:

  • black morel
  • black trumpet (aka horn of plenty)
  • chicken of the woods
  • golden chanterelle
  • hedgehog
  • lion's mane
  • lobster
  • shaggy mane

The South Sound Mushroom Club is the closest one to you Bill. Their contact information is:

1631 Lana Lane SW
Tumwater, WA 98512-6924
Web: www.southsoundmushroomclub.com/
Contact: Melodie Gates, info@southsoundmushroomclub.com
President: Rachel Friedman president@southsoundmushroomclub.com
Member since 1989 | Club Trustee: Melodie Gates

I was going to provide photos, but I have reconsidered because one must NOT rely on photos alone for identifying edible mushrooms. As the saying goes you can eat all mushrooms, but some of them only once. Anyone within the sound of my voice who is interested in learning about wild mushrooms should contact the North American Mycological Society. They have publications, videos, quarterly newsletters, 80 chapters, and thousands of members in North America.

Broccoli Worms

"I steamed a gorgeous head of broccoli that I grew in my own garden and was thoroughly disgusted to find that when it was done cooking I had a ton of cooked worms that had come out of the broccoli head. I had washed and looked it over. I'm grossed out and almost afraid to eat broccoli ever again. How do I keep this from happening? HELP!"

This question came from Bug-egged (really, that's the name given). I don't think I'm being punked because this is a real problem, especially if we're talking about organic broccoli. Here's what to do.

We're Organized

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.

I have also cataloged all of my personal recipes that I have shared with you in this weekly Q&A series and in all of my other articles as well. The link to that Index is here. There are hotlinks to each recipe and this will be updated as new recipes are shared.

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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: lindalum52@gmail.com.

And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.

© 2020 Linda Lum

Comments

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 30, 2020:

Denise, you made me laugh. That wasn't stated specifically, but you obviously read between the lines.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on October 30, 2020:

I have had broccoli worms before too, in my homegrown broccoli so this is really good information. Thanks. I do know that cooking can be a sensual experience but I found it amusing to think of it as one of the most sensual experiences you can have outside the bedroom. Wow.

Blessings,

Denise

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 26, 2020:

Manatita, you have been missed. So good to have you back. What you say is true. I've never been aware of a guest being unhappy (although the last time I have an overnight visitor other than family, we didn't have social media LOL).

If one is feeling depressed perhaps even the grandest of meals would not help. As you say, inner peace.

Thank you for your kind words.

manatita44 from london on October 26, 2020:

Eric could easily be asking you how to deal with failure. With food I guess we've all been there. It's a bit like cleaning and preparing the house for a guest you know, who still manages to find fault. Hard to take for some!

So the answer is rather like 'how to deal with that which makes us uncomfortable, especially from loved ones.

In the same way, food may not be 'tasty' sometimes, but not truly depressing if we are in the right space ... inner centering is the key.

That apart, you really are a Master ... a culinary genius and Kitty seems to approve. Stay blessed!! - Lantern

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 26, 2020:

Hi Shauna, quick answer to your question about the broccoli in hot water (not boiling). It doesn't get cooked, but the color does brighten a bit. I personally think that's a good thing.

Kitty's thinking about next Tuesday.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 26, 2020:

Linda, it's interesting how the tofu comes out looking like chicken nuggets. Not real ones, tho. The ones that come from fast food restaurants. They normally look a bit wonky inside.

You guys have some exotic mushrooms in Washington. The only ones I've heard of are the black morel, golden chanterelle, and lobster. But I wouldn't be able to identify any of them if they were in front of me right now.

I wasn't aware that broccoli is susceptible to cabbage worms. Apparently, I've never bought organic broccoli. I understand the need to clean them thoroughly in order to jar the worms loose, but does the method shown in the video par-cook the broccoli?

Today's kitty looks quite contemplative. I wonder what's going through her head?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 26, 2020:

Hi Mary, I'm not a huge pickle fan (too many years of my youth spent helping mom fill the crock, I guess), so I don't have an immediate answer to your question. I hope I can come up with a solution next Monday to get you out of this pickle (sorry, I couldn't resist).

Mary Wickison from Brazil on October 26, 2020:

Hi Linda,

When I was a kid, my mother would pick mushrooms (large flat white field mushrooms), but it isn't something I've done as an adult. I'm always worried I might pick something poisonous.

Regarding broccoli and worms. It is something that peeves me, but my friend says, it tells her, there is no pesticides on the plant. I still don't want to eat (or pay) for worms!

Recently I bought some pickles. Unfortunately, they taste of nothing but vinegar. Is it too late to add some seasoning in with the vinegar? Would it seep into the pickles? If so, what would you suggest I add?

Have a great week.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 26, 2020:

Bill, my Beth and I were remarking just yesterday that we haven't seen chanterelles at the produce stand. It's time. If I could locate where to gather them myself I would be in Heaven. We had morels pop up in our yard last year, but they did not return.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 26, 2020:

Good morning Eric. No, believe it or not I have NOT addressed the topic of veggie burgers yet. I've been toying with an article for some time. You've giving me the nudge I need to get going on this. In the meantime, I think it's hard to beat a well-prepared portobello mushroom as a substitute for a meat patty. I'll share with you and Gabe how to do that next Monday.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 26, 2020:

Pamela, both recipes are pretty good. Freezing is the key (in my humble opinion) to giving tofu the texture that tofu-haters want.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 26, 2020:

Thanks for the info. I'll pass it along to Bev. We were out yesterday hunting for them. Bev kind of knows what she's looking for. I provide company and wise-cracking humor. We make a good team. :)

Enjoy the sunshine, my friend, and be well.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 26, 2020:

That broccoli deal makes me a bit squeamish. But I will get over it. Better than heavy pesticides I guess.

Thanks you the Tofu recipe, it will be done.

Gabe and I were talking about veggie burgers last night but I will look into the index as I am sure you have covered it.

Thanks for another great one.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 26, 2020:

Linda, it is nice to think about the cooking and eating of a good meal is therapeutic. I suppose we have all had a meal that was anything but! Eric poses some good questions and you answer brilliantly, of course.

The toful recipe sounds good and I am not a tofu fan. I have had the firm before and liked it but not enough to cook it often. This recipe sounds like it is worth the trouble, so, thank you. This is another great article. Have a wonderful week, Linda.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 25, 2020:

Oh Flourish, I hear ya. I haven't mentioned this to my vegetarian daughter. Perhaps I should. Not the way I want her to get protein. Ugh!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 25, 2020:

John, thanks for your kind words. I'm not head-over-heels in love with tofu, but fixing it this way makes it more than tolerable.

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 25, 2020:

That’s a very helpful tofu recipe! Those garden worms can be pesky. I bet we’ve all eaten some without realizing it. I shudder to think about it.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on October 25, 2020:

Linda, I enjoyed your introduction that wasn’t an introduction but answer to Eric’s question. I have had meals that others recommended to me saying how incredible it was and a I had to try it. Maybe this gave me false expectations that no food could have lived up to...but truly I found the food to be bland and almost tasteless. Actually the dish was a beef stroganoff, and afterwards I just wished I hadn’t wasted my time eating it.

Thanks for the instructions how to make tofu like meat. I still have not met a tofu I liked, but this sounds promising.