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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #91

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

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My, How Things Change

Last week I was looking for a particular cookbook in my pantry. Please don't ask how many I own (I haven't counted) but suffice it to say that it's 3 digits worth. Anyhow, in my quest I rediscovered a book I have not paged through for a very long time. It was the 1998 annual recipe compilation by Sunset Magazine. (Those of you in the Midwest or East coast, or perhaps outside of the United States might not recognize the name. Sunset is a lifestyle periodical, published monthly, focusing primarily on homes, cooking, gardening, and travel in the Western United States.)

As I turned the pages I was surprised to see how much our tastes and methods for the preparation of foods have changed in 20 years. Margarine was a perfectly acceptable substitute for "unhealthy" butter, meats still held a high position in our evening meals, we were urged to "rinse our chicken", and produce that is now common was still considered exotic (chicory and persimmons for example).

Presentation of the meals (styling and photography) was amazingly dreadful in comparison to today. Perhaps it's because of digital photography, but even food blogs on the internet have much clearer, brighter colors than the Sunset pics of 1998.

Oh dear. The color, the plating. It's just so uninspiring.

Oh dear. The color, the plating. It's just so uninspiring.

What a difference 20 years makes

What a difference 20 years makes

Hmmm, so I began to wonder. If I'm still around 20 years from now (and I certainly intend to be), how different will our meals be from what they are now? I think animal-based proteins will be relegated to garnish status. I think white (potatoes, pasta, rice) will be a thing of the past. What are your ideas? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

So with that as an introduction, to get you thinking about foods, let's get started with today's mailbox. If you're an old friend, you already know how this works. But, if this is your first visit, let me introduce you to my kitchen.

Each week I receive questions about food ingredients, cooking or baking terms or methods, requests for recipes, and queries about nutrition. Just about anything food-related has been covered here.

I'm sharing this past week's questions and my responses; it happens every Monday. Want to join in the fun? You can leave your question in the comments below, and next week the answer will be right here. It's that easy.

How to Flavor a Steak, Part 2

Last week Mary (Blond Logic) asked for advice on how to get good garlic flavor in her steak. I provided the basics on how best to sear a steak on the stovetop and baste with butter and garlic cloves. Then Gordon Ramsay stopped by to give a demonstration.

Our friend Shauna (Brave Warrior) shared her advice for a well-seasoned (and tender) steak:

As far as flavoring steak, I usually season it with salt, pepper, minced garlic (or garlic powder), onion powder and Worcestershire sauce, "fork" it into both sides and let it marinate for an hour or so in the fridge before cooking. I do take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes to an hour before cooking so it comes to room temperature. I find doing it this way not only seasons the meat but tenderizes, too.

I don't know about the rest of you, but suddenly I'm hungry for a steak. Thanks, Sha for the great tip.

The next question in the mailbox came from Doris James. You know her as MizBejabbers.

How to Buy and Grow Old-Fashioned Garlic

My question is where do you get the good old-fashioned garlic we used to be able to buy anywhere? You know, the kind that your breath will clear a room. Today's hybrid garlic really doesn't taste like garlic to me. We also want to raise our own, and if we can get the good stuff, we can. I saw several different kinds of garlic in a garden catalog, but we don't know which to buy.

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Doris, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, "a rose is a rose is a rose, but there are lots of garlics out there." Most varieties available at the grocery store are grown not for their flavor but for long shelf life. Refrigerated storage (at home or by the commercial processors) also causes garlic to lose its punch. Here's a table of the various types of garlic and their unique properties.

Garlic VarietyAppearanceTaste

Hardneck (when buying to plant in your garden, look for Porcelain, Rocambole, or Purple Stripe)

Has a hard central stalk and 4 to 12 cloves in each bulb. Cloves have a rosy/violet cast

Spicy or hot

Softneck (for your garden, look for Silverskin or Artichoke)

Produces many cloves, perhaps up to 30 in a bulb. This is the one you find most often at the grocery store

A good choice if you want to use raw garlic

Creole (look for Cuban Purple, Ajo Rojo, Burgundy, Creole Red, and Rose du Lautrec)

Beautiful bulbs in colors from pink to dark purple

Intensity falls somewhat inbetween hardneck and softneck varieties

And then there's black garlic. Yes, it's black, and you can find it in most Asian markets. Describing black garlic makes one sound like a snooty wine connoisseur—it's rich with plummy undertones, notes of dark caramel and chocolate, and a hint of vinegar, chewy like a dried apricot and great for those who hate garlic.

You can't "grow" black garlic. It's not a separate variety; it's fresh garlic that has been processed (cooked, caramelized and fermented).

What is a "Short" Crust?

Back to this baking show I'm watching...what is the difference between short crusts and other crusts? They keep mentioning short crusts for pastry, but I don't know why that is so special????

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Bill, I'm glad that you asked. The "short" of shortcrust refers to how the crust shatters into "short" pieces when you bite into it. Shortcrust is used to make pies and tarts, either sweet or savory, but it's not mere pie dough. The proportion of flour to fat (butter, lard, or shortening) will always be 2:1 (by weight) which is far more fat than your usual pie pastry. This creates a crust that is supremely flaky; it crumbles easily and has a rich, buttery flavor.

Here's a simple recipe:

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 6 tablespoons (approximate) ice water

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl combine the flour and salt. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender until there are crumbs the size of peas. You could also use a food processor.
  2. Slowly add the water, lifting and tossing the flour/butter mixture with a fork. Depending on the humidity you might not need all of the water. You should have a dough that holds together when you press it between your fingers but is not sticky.
  3. Form into two disks and wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill 30 minutes.
  4. On a well-floured work-surface roll each disk to 1/8-inch thickness.

Note that you can also use a food processor to cut the butter into the flour.

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Each week we learn about a food item that you probably toss into the trash bin without a thought or a care—until today that is. Let's find out which discards can be re-used and re-purposed.

Cheese Rinds

If you've never purchased a block or wedge of Parmesan, Romano, or other hard cheese you might be asking "what's a cheese rind?" Some cheeses are covered with grape leaves, some have a wax coating (Edam and Gouda), some are soft and almost fuzzy (brie and camembert), and some are wrapped in cloth. And then there are the cheeses that make their own covering. They are aged for a long time (months, even years) and develop a very hard surface. It seems inedible (you could break a tooth on some of them), but they aren't trash. They are still 100 percent cheese, and too good to throw away.

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So, what can you do with them? If you are lucky enough to have cheese rinds, label and store them in the freezer. When you use them (in the suggestions below) remove before serving your dish. (Some of the rind will melt, but probably not all of it).

  • Add to a simmering pot of spaghetti sauce or soup.
  • Add to the broth you ladel into a risotto.
  • Speaking of broth, you can use them to make a vegetarian broth. Simply simmer in several cups of water with some onions, carrot, and celery for 2 hours.

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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As you can see, there were a lot of questions in the mailbox, so I had to bring Miss Kitty in to help. I think she did a great job, don't you?

Let's do this again next week. 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.

© 2019 Linda Lum

Comments

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 20, 2019:

Rinita, I'm sorry for being so extremely tardy in answering your question. It was not flagged in my "you didn't answer this" by Hub Pages. Actually, at one time, mincemeat DID include meat. I will get a recipe for you.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on August 20, 2019:

Linda,

My husband has always raved about my pie crusts because I always put in more shortening/margarine than the recipe calls for. So without knowing it I have been making short crust. Haha. Thanks for the info and research (you and Miss Kitty).

Blessings,

Denise

Rinita Sen on July 04, 2019:

If white rice and animal proteins go extinct in 20 years, I certainly don't want to be around.

Anyway, great post as always, and I have a question.

I never tried my hands on a traditional English minced meat pie, so I looked up the recipe. Call me dumb, but I didn't know till now that there is actually no meat in minced meat pie! I was looking forward to adding some meat, though. Is there a recipe where that's possible? Also, how different would it taste if I used any animal fat instead of sticking to suet (it is not widely available where I live).

Thanks a bunch!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 01, 2019:

Lori, I have several pie crust recipes posted. Check the table of contents under desserts, etc. The shortcrust of which Bill speaks is very rich. You can contact me any time. I love hearng from you.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 01, 2019:

Shauna, I've heard it said that we eat first with our eyes.

Lori Colbo from Pacific Northwest on July 01, 2019:

Thrilled to get a good pie crust recipe. I lost Grandma's when she died (it was amazing) so I look forward to making a pie.

The table of contents was a good idea and I intend to use it. I love your articles. I had a question while reading but have forgotten it. If it comes to me I will email you. Bon Appétit!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on July 01, 2019:

Linda, that Sunset Magazine photo is so unappetizing! I think your observations are correct regarding today's technology. Also, I think today's chefs are just as particular about plating and appearance as they are flavor.

I'm glad you answered Bill's question. I've never heard the term "short crust" before he started watching British cooking shows.

Many of the cooking shows I watch speak of the wonders of cheese rinds. I've never bought chunks of parm. I'm tempted to do so just so I have the rind on hand. I'll bet it's wonderful in tomato soup!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 01, 2019:

Good morning Mary. I have several friends and family members who, after going through chemo, have mentioned that food just doesn't have much taste anymore. Email me with any details you can provide on what tastes (bitter, sour, sweet, salty) Ian IS able to distinguish (and enjoy) and I'll help put together a plan for you and will also put the answer in the next Q&A.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on July 01, 2019:

Thank you Shauna for your addition to the garlic steak question. I do enjoy it.

Interesting information about the garlic, my husband also commented that garlic isn't as tasty as it used to be.

That made me think of another question. Since my husband had surgery, it has played havoc with his taste buds. Although the sense of taste is returning slowly, I wondered if there was a way to 'kick start' the process. I've read that as we get older, the sense of taste diminishes normally. Is it just a matter of using more spices and herbs?

Interesting uses for cheese rinds, who knew?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 01, 2019:

Eric, I'm glad you liked this Q&A. I haven't tried the black garlic. Truth be told it looks a bit scary. I'll bet you can get it cheap in your corner of the world. I've seen it used on Chopped and Master Chef.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 01, 2019:

Bill, I know; if only they spoke English haha. But hey, if we were all alike what a dull world this would be.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 01, 2019:

Flourish, I just can't abide seeing any food go to waste; it's in my DNA. I'm glad you found the answers helpful (or at least entertaining). I hope you have a great 4th.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 01, 2019:

I thought you just ate the rinds raw. Throw away? hmm. How cool about the Short - I love flaky.

I had no idea about the different garlics.

Well this is another really good one, thanks.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 01, 2019:

Thanks for answering my question. Your answer makes perfect sense, although I wish the British would speak more like us to simplify matters. lol Kidding, friends!

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 01, 2019:

Go figure with those cheese rinds! I thought they were trash, no way about it. Love your answers!