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Trisha Santa is a professionally-trained cook who owns and operates Ingredients Etc. at 457 Main Road, Hudson. Her articles are published here with the kind permission of Your Local Journal.


Garlic Smell Citrus Rhubard Avocados
Scallops Cucumbers Ribs Salad
Radish Strawberries Peaches Saffron
Dried Tomatoes Tomatoes Lúdláb Apple Cake
Mushrooms Mace Crème Fraîche Dip
Pasta

Pasta

posted: Dec 5, 2007

Question: When cooking pasta, should I put salt and oil in the water? And if so, how much?

Answer: I was personally taught that putting oil in the pasta water is a sacrilege. Also, when you’re using a high-quality dried pasta, it can turn out kind of gooey if oil is present in the water. You should definitely salt the water, about 2 teaspoons per pound of pasta. It may sound like a lot, but only about ten percent of the salt actually permeates the pasta. If you don’t salt the water, you’ll find that the pasta tastes really bland and you might compensate by over-salting at the table.

Orecchiette With Vodka Sauce

In a large pot, prepare pasta in boiling salted water as label directs. Sauté minced garlic in a large saucepan with olive oil for several minutes over medium heat. Chop tomatoes finely and add them to the pan, along with the cream, vodka, tomato paste and pepper. Stir and simmer until it starts to boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Taste the sauce and salt if necessary. Toss the sauce with the cooked and drained pasta. Serves 4.

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Dip

posted: Dec 1, 2007

Question: I have been invited to a dinner party and I've been asked to bring dip. Do you know a recipe that doesn't have any dairy products in it - preferably healthy?

Answer: The following recipe meets all your requirements and only takes about 30 minutes to prepare. Also, if there are leftovers, this dip can be used in lieu of mustard or mayonnaise as a very delicious sandwich spread.

This recipe is from Good Housekeeping: Best Recipes of 1998.

Roasted Red Pepper & Walnut Dip

Preheat broiler and line a pan large enough to hold the peppers with foil. Broil peppers at closest position to heat, turning occasionally, for 10 minutes or until charred and blistered all over. Remove from broiler. Wrap foil around peppers and allow them to steam for 15 minutes at room temperature. Turn the oven to 350° F. Spread walnuts in a baking pan and bake 8-10 minutes, until toasted. In a saucepan, toast cumin over low heat for 1-2 minutes, until very fragrant. Remove peppers from foil, peel off skin and discard skin and seeds. Cut peppers into large pieces. In food processor with knife blade attached, blend walnuts until ground. Add all the other ingredients and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until 30 minutes before serving. Serve with toasted pita triangles. Makes about 2 cups of dip.

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Crème Fraîche

posted: Nov 20, 2007

Question: I have a recipe that calls for crème fraîche, but I can’t find it anywhere. Is there something I can use as a substitute?

Answer: Crème fraîche is just unpasteurized heavy cream that has been allowed to ferment naturally. According to Julia Child, you can make a good substitute by blending one tablespoon of sour cream into a cup of 35% cream and allowing it to ferment and thicken at room temperature. Or, if you're in a hurry, by whisking equal amounts of sour cream and 35% cream together until thickened. Both options will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

The following recipe appears in Julia's Kitchen Wisdom by Julia Child.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Sauté the onion slowly with the butter in a heavy-bottomed covered pot for 7-8 minutes, until tender and translucent. Blend in the flour and cook slowly for 2-3 minutes, stirring. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the hot stock. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat and whisk in the milk. Blend in the mushrooms and dried tarragon and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Stir in the crème fraîche, simmer briefly, then season with salt and pepper to taste, adding drops of lemon juice if needed. Garnish with sautéed mushroom slices. Serves 6.

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Mace

posted: Nov 6, 2007

Question: I have a baking recipe that requires something called mace. What is it?

Answer: First of all, when a recipe calls for mace, it has nothing to do with that self-defense spray. Mace is the reddish, web-like outer layer found on nutmeg. Unfortunately, this is expensive and extremely difficult to find. The good news is that mace tastes very much like nutmeg, only milder, so substitute a smaller quantity of nutmeg in its place in your recipe.

This recipe is from The Gourmet Garage Cookbook by Sheryl and Mel London.

Candied Acorn Squash With Mace, Honey, & Toasted Hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line an 11 x 16-inch pan with aluminum foil and butter the foil. Cut each squash in half vertically and scrape out the seeds and fibrous matter with a spoon. Place them on the pan and sprinkle with salt. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and add the honey to warm. Brush the insides of the squash with this mixture, using all of it. Sprinkle with mace or nutmeg. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Baste a few times with a brush, using the mixture that has settled in the squash cavities. Test the flesh with the point of a knife for tenderness. Transfer the squash to a serving platter and sprinkle the chopped nuts over all. Serves 4.

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Mushrooms

posted Nov 6, 2007

Question: I know that you can buy dried mushrooms, but what do you do with them, exactly?

Answer: To reconstitute dried mushrooms, all you have do is soak them in water. The time it takes is dependent on how large the mushrooms are and the temperature of the water used. Purists will say to use cold water, but this can take up to two hours. I personally use hot water I've boiled in the kettle - I don't find any difference in flavour and you generally have mushrooms ready to cook within 15 minutes. Once reconstituted, drain them and they are ready to be used just like fresh mushrooms, in dishes such as risottos, omelets and stews. The liquid that you're left with also makes a wonderful stock.

The following recipe appears in Food For Cooks by Clare Ferguson.

Wild Mushroom, Potato & Prosciutto Gratin

Reconstitute dried mushrooms and drain well. Heat the butter in a frying pan, add mushrooms and cook over high heat for 4-5 minutes; add the garlic, shallots, prosciutto and thyme and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Set aside. Thinly slice the potatoes and place them in a large bowl. Bring the cream to a boil and pour it over the potatoes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste and toss well. Remove enough potatoes from the bowl to make a single layer in the bottom of a buttered, shallow 12" baking dish. Sprinkle some of the mushroom mixture over, then top with another layer of potatoes. Continue to layer until all the potatoes are used up. Pour any remaining cream over the top just to cover. Scatter a final layer of the mushroom mixture and sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake in a 375°F oven for about an hour, until the top is golden and bubbly and a slender knife can be easily inserted through all the layers. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4.

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Apple Cake

posted: Oct 16, 2007

Question: I made an apple pie but the apples came out all mushy. I think maybe I used the wrong kind of apples. What are good varieties for baking?

Answer: Speaking from my personal experience, there are only really two types that are consistently crisp: Granny Smith and Royal Gala. But, if you can find Delicious or Cortland apples that are fresh and firm, they will work as well .

This recipe was originally given to me by Lisa Pritchard.

Apple Cake

Core and chop the apples, mix with the sugar and cinnamon; set aside. Mix all remaining ingredients together until a thick batter forms. Grease a large bundt pan or angel food cake pan. Pour 1/3 of batter into pan. Spread half the apples on top of batter. Add another 1/3 of batter over apple layer. Spread the second half of apples over batter. Pour the last 1/3 of batter over apples. Bake in oven for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until an inserted knife comes out clean.

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Lúdláb

posted: Oct 9, 2007

Question: At a Hungarian restaurant named The Coffee Mill, I used to eat a chocolate cake called "Lúdláb". Could you find a recipe for it?

Answer: This recipe appears courtesy of numerous Hungarian friends and family members.

Cake ingredients
Buttercream ingredients

Cake: Beat egg yolks with sugar until thick and creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Whip egg whites until they form peaks. Gently fold into yolk mixture, taking care not to deflate the egg whites. Pour into a 9" cake pan. Bake at 375° F for 20-30 minutes. Put the cake aside to cool.

Buttercream: In a double-boiler, cream together eggs and sugar until thick. Let it cool a bit, then add chocolate and butter. Spread half of cream on cake, sprinkle cherries on cream layer, then put rest of buttercream over the cherries.

Chocolate glaze: Mix together and spread carefully on top of cake.

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Tomatoes

posted: Sept 18, 2007

Question: I have a recipe that calls for tomatoes that have been peeled and seeded. What is the best way to do this?

Answer: To peel tomatoes, cut a shallow cross at the bottom end of each tomato. Drop the tomatoes, one or two at a time, into a pot of boiling water. After 15 seconds, remove them and drop them immediately into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Gently pull the skin off with your fingers or the tip of a small paring knife. To seed tomatoes, cut each tomato in half crosswise. Holding one half, gently squeeze over a bowl, and loosen the seeds from the pulp with your finger. If you want to save the juice, place a strainer over the bowl before you begin squeezing.

This recipe appears in Celebrations Italian Style by Mary Ann Esposito.

Tomato Sauce

Purée the tomatoes in a food processor or blender until smooth. In a deep heavy pot, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, and sauté until soft. Add the tomatoes and stir to blend. Add the wine, basil, salt and pepper and stir well. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Makes about 2 1/2 quarts. This sauce will keep for up to a week in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.

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Dried Tomatoes

posted: Sept 18, 2007

Question: How do I make my own sun-dried tomatoes?

Answer: While the following recipes do not actually dry the tomatoes in the sun, the oven method is considerably faster and more reliable.

These recipes appears in Celebrations Italian Style by Mary Ann Esposito.

Dried Tomatoes

Unblemished, ripe plum tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes)

Wash and dry the tomatoes and cut them in half lengthwise. Place them cut sides on wire racks on cookie sheets. Place them in a 200°F oven and dry them until the tomatoes have the same texture of dried apricots or raisins. Depending on the size of the tomatoes, this can take as little as 10 hours or up to 24 hours. The dried tomatoes can then be placed in Ziploc freezer bags and frozen. Frozen, the dried tomatoes will keep for up to a year.

Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil

Wash and dry the tomatoes and cut them in half lengthwise. Place them cut sides on wire racks on cookie sheets. Place them in a 200°F oven and dry them until the tomatoes have the same texture of dried apricots or raisins. Pour the vinegar into a large, non-corrosive pot and bring to a boil. Add tomatoes and blanch for 1 minute. Remove the tomatoes and drain well. Layer tomatoes into jars, adding half the basil, capers, peppercorns and salt to each jar. Slowly pour olive oil into jars, pressing down on the tomatoes slightly with a wooden spoon. Make sure the tomatoes are completely submerged under the oil at all times, or they will be exposed to air and potential bacteria. Cap jars and place them in a cool spot overnight. Add more oil to jars if the tomatoes are poking out of the oil. Check the jars 2 or 3 more times, adding more oil if necessary. Cap the jars and store them in a cool place for 6 weeks before using. Refrigerate after opening.

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Saffron

posted: Sep 9, 2007

Question: What is saffron exactly, and why is it so expensive?

Answer: Saffron comes from the Crocus Sativus plant. The flowers each have three orange-red stigmas, which are the true saffron. 200,000 flowers must be harvested by hand in order to obtain just one pound of saffron, hence the price. The best saffron comes from La Mancha and Valencia in Spain; however, it is also grown in Greece, Turkey, Iran, Morocco and Kashmir. Sometimes, grocery stores offer something that is called American saffron - while it is much cheaper, this is not a good substitute and should be avoided. A little saffron can go a long way, despite its subtle flavour - adding too much can render a dish inedible.

This recipe appears in The Occasional Vegetarian by Karen Lee.

Saffron Herb Rice

In a medium pot, bring stock to a simmer; remove from heat. Add saffron and steep for 30 minutes. In a saucepan, sauté onions in olive oil until soft, 3-4 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat with the oil. Pour in the saffron stock and bring to a simmer. Add salt and pepper. Turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Check to make sure all the stock is absorbed. Turn heat off and let rice relax, covered, for 15 minutes. Stir in parsley and serve. Serves 4 as a side dish.

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Peaches

posted: Aug 24, 2007

Question: Do you have a recipe that takes advantage of some of the wonderful fruit available this time of year, especially peaches?

Answer: The following fruit salad recipe specifically mentions peaches, plums and figs, but feel free to improvise. For example, there are still some superb local blueberries and raspberries available that would lend themselves nicely to this dish.

The recipe originates from the September 2007 issue of Gourmet magazine.

Mixed Fruit in Cinnamon Lime Syrup

Bring water, sugar, lime juice and cinnamon to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Stir together fruit wedges and hot syrup in a shallow serving dish. Let stand for at least 30 minutes. Just before serving, top with lime slices and toasted pecans. Serves 8.

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Strawberries

posted: Aug 24, 2007

Question: I have a dinner party coming up and I would like to make a simple dessert, preferably something with fresh berries. Is there something nice I can do that doesn't involve baking?

Answer: The following recipe can mostly be prepared ahead of time, just leave the assembly part for when you are ready to serve them. If Marsala is not to your taste, you can substitute Grand Marnier or a really top-notch balsamic vinegar.

The recipe originates from The Gourmet Garage Cookbook by Sheryl and Mel London.

Marsala Cream-Filled Strawberries

Place the strawberries hull side down on a work surface. From the pointed end, split each berry into eighths, being careful not to cut through the stem end. Set aside. In a chilled bowl, beat the whipping cream until partially whipped. Add the icing sugar and whip until almost stiff. Add the Marsala and complete the whipping process. Gently spread the berries open, being careful not to separate the sections. Fill each one generously with the cream using a heaping teaspoon, or pipe in using a pastry bag. Dust with icing sugar and serve within 30 minutes. Serves 4.

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Radish

posted: Aug 24, 2007

Question: I'm looking for a summer salad recipe that's easy to make, but also a little different from the usual fare. Any suggestions?

Answer: The following recipe is quite simple to prepare, although don't make it ahead of time as the radishes will lose their crispness. I find that the combination of flavours is unusual yet very pleasing.

The recipe originates from The Gourmet Garage Cookbook by Sheryl and Mel London.

Moroccan Radish and Orange Salad with Mint

Peel the oranges, removing the bitter white pith. Cut out the orange segments from between the membranes and then cut each segment into two or three small pieces. Place in medium-size bowl and set aside. In a small cup, mix the lemon juice and honey together and set aside. Coarsely grate the radishes and combine them with the salt, oranges and the honey-lemon dressing. Line four plates with lettuce leaves and mound the orange-radish mixture over the leaves. Distribute the mint evenly over each portion and serve at once.

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Salad

posted: Aug 1, 2007

Question: I'm looking for a summer salad recipe that's easy to make, but also a little different from the usual fare. Any suggestions?

Answer: The following recipe is quite simple to prepare, although don't make it ahead of time as the radishes will lose their crispness. I find that the combination of flavours is unusual yet very pleasing.

The recipe originates from The Gourmet Garage Cookbook by Sheryl and Mel London.

Moroccan Radish and Orange Salad with Mint

Peel the oranges, removing the bitter white pith. Cut out the orange segments from between the membranes and then cut each segment into two or three small pieces. Place in medium-size bowl and set aside. In a small cup, mix the lemon juice and honey together and set aside. Coarsely grate the radishes and combine them with the salt, oranges and the honey-lemon dressing. Line four plates with lettuce leaves and mound the orange-radish mixture over the leaves. Distribute the mint evenly over each portion and serve at once.

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Ribs!

posted: Jul 3, 2007

Question: I love ribs, but I hate making them because they seem to take all day to make. Do you have a recipe that doesn't eat up too much of my time?

Answer: The beauty of this recipe is that is only three steps, and the first two can be done up to a day ahead of time. It also takes less than two hours of your time.

The following recipe comes from the July 2006 issue of Bon Appetit.

Bourbon-Glazed Baby Back Ribs

Whisk the first ten ingredients in a bowl, then cover and refrigerate. This can be done a day ahead of time. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place long sheet of heavy-duty foil on each of 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Sprinkle rib racks on all sides with salt and pepper. Place 1 rib rack on each foil sheet. Fold up sides of each foil sheet around rib rack to form boat-like shape. Pour 1/2 cup pineapple juice over each rib rack. Fold up foil to seal packets. Bake until ribs are tender, about 1 hour. Remove ribs from foil packets. Transfer to roasting pan; pour any juices from foil over and cool. This step can also be done a day ahead of time - simply wrap cooled ribs and refrigerate. Prepare barbecue (medium heat). Cut each rib rack in half. Grill until browned, brushing frequently with glaze and turning often, about 10 minutes. Cut racks between bones into ribs.

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Cucumbers

posted: June 24, 2007

Question: When I buy cucumbers at the grocery store they seem to be coated with some substance. What is it and how can I remove it?

Answer: Most store-bought cucumbers (and apples, as well) are coated in wax, which acts as a preservative. You can either peel them or wash them with a little bit of dish soap and water.

The following recipe comes from Julia's Kitchen Wisdom by Julia Child.

Cucumber Salad

Peel, halve lengthwise, and scoop the seeds out of the cucumbers. Cut either into thin slices or julienne, and toss together with the salt, sugar and wine vinegar. Let steep for 15 to 20 minutes, then drain. Serve as is, tossed with fresh dill. Alternately, you could mix it in with some sour cream.

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Scallops

posted: June 17, 2007

Question: Sometimes when I’m sautéing scallops, they ooze a lot of liquid, which sort of ruins the dish. Why does this happen and what can I do to prevent it?

Answer: Sometimes scallops have been “plumped” in a saline solution, which comes out when you warm them. You can test them out by heating 3 or 4 scallops at a time in a dry non-stick frying pan. If liquid exudes, heat all of them by handfuls, drain, pat them dry with paper towels and then proceed with your sauté but cut down your cooking time.

The following recipe comes from Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom by Julia Child.

Sea Scallops Sautéed With Garlic

Cut large scallops into thirds or quarters. Season with salt and pepper and, the moment before cooking, dredge in flour. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan, and when very hot but not smoking, add the scallops. Toss every few seconds, swirling the pan by its handle. As they rapidly begin to brown, add the garlic, shallots and parsley. The scallops are done when just springy to the touch.

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Avocados

posted: June 10, 2007

Question: How do I choose an avocado at the supermarket - what should I be looking for?

Answer: First of all, look for an avocado with unblemished skin. Then pick it up – it should seem heavy. Press on it with your finger – it should be soft enough to yield to the pressure but not so soft that it leaves a mark. If you cannot find a ripe avocado, you can speed up the ripening process by placing it in a paper bag at room temperature. Including an apple in the paper bag with the avocado is said to make it ripen even faster.

The following dessert recipe appeared in the January 1996 issue of Gourmet magazine.

Avocado Radish Salad with Lime Dressing

In a bowl whisk together the lime juice, oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Add avocado and toss gently with a rubber spatula to coat. Divide romaine between 2 salad plates, making a nest on each, and put avocado mixture in centers. Sprinkle salads with radishes.

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Rhubard

posted: June 3, 2007

Question: It’s rhubarb season again and I’m getting tired of always making the same rhubarb-strawberry pies. Do you have a recipe for rhubarb that doesn’t involve pie or jam?

Answer: The following dessert recipe appears in The Elements of Taste by Gray Kunz and Peter Kaminsky. Most of it can be prepared ahead of time, which makes it an ideal dinner party dessert.

Chilled Cinnamon Rhubarb Soup With Ice Cream

Combine the rhubarb, water, sugar, vanilla bean, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the rhubarb is very tender, almost falling apart – about 20 minutes. Strain the mixture and scrape the black seeds of the vanilla pod into the soup. Season with lemon juice and additional sugar if necessary and refrigerate until ready to serve. For the garnish, combine the sliced rhubarb, water, and sugar in a saucepan and simmer gently over medium heat for 3 minutes, no longer. Set aside and allow to cool. Scoop the ice cream into 4 balls and roll them in the toasted pine nuts. Place the ice cream scoops in 4 bowls. Ladle soup around the ice cream, garnish with the rhubarb slices and serve.

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Citrus

posted: May 27, 2007

Question: Sometimes when I’m looking at recipes, they ask for a quantity of say, lemon juice or zest but they don’t say how many lemons that I’ll need to have on hand. Is there some kind of trick I can use to figure it out on my own?

Answer: The following chart and recipe appear in The Gourmet Garage Cookbook by Sheryl and Mel London:

1 large lemon = about 4 tbsp juice & 2 tsp zest
1 large lime = about 3 tbsp juice & 1 1/2 tsp zest
1 large orange = about 1/2 cup juice & 1 tbsp zest
1 large grapefruit = about 1 cup juice & 1 1/2 tbsp zest

Lemon Cream

In a chilled mixing bowl, combine the cream, lemon juice, condensed milk and sugar. Using an electric hand mixer, whip the mixture until it is very thick. Spoon about 3/4 cup into each of four goblets or wine glasses. Decorate each with a sprig of mint. Serves 4.

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Garlic Smell

posted: May 20, 2007

Question: I love cooking with garlic, but the smell lingers on my hands for hours afterwards and nothing seems to help. Is there something that can remove the odor?

Answer: The trick I always use is to rub my hands with a wedge of lemon, although I am told that using dishwashing liquid with some salt works just as well. This will not only remove the aroma of garlic, but also works well with other odors such as fish, seafood, onions and hot peppers.

The following recipe appeared in the July 2000 issue of Gourmet magazine.

Grilled Herb Garlic Bread

Prepare barbecue for cooking. Heat butter with garlic and salt in a pan over moderate heat, stirring, until melted. Transfer to a bowl and cool. Stir in parsley and pepper to taste. Brush cut sides of bread with half of garlic butter. Grill bread, cut sides down, 5 to 6 inches for 2 minutes. Turn bread over and brush with remaining garlic butter. Grill until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes more. The herb-garlic butter can be prepared 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Melt before proceeding.

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