General Topics rss

Highlights from the General Topics and Cookware boards. Food trends, food products, and burning questions.

How to School Yourself in Wine

Is a deep understanding of wine something anyone can learn? How about pairing wine with food? "I know what sommeliers will tell you (what they are trained to tell you): drink what you like!" says mp413. "But I also know that sometimes a wine just doesn't work with some food, while another wine will work perfectly, and I don't just want someone to tell me what to order, I want to know what to order." READ MORE

Go Ahead, Store Onions in the Fridge

Onions keep best when stored in cool, dark places—sparrowgrass thinks the fridge works just fine. "Don't store potatoes and onions in the same place," sparrowgrass warns. "One causes the other to sprout and spoil."

Sweet onions (including Vidalias) that haven't been cured for dry storage can be individually wrapped in paper towels and stacked in the crisper, says Karl S—they keep for months that way.

Discuss: Storing onions and garlic

Sweet onion image from Shutterstock

What to Do When Yogurt Separates?

What do you do when your tub of yogurt separates into watery liquid (whey) and thicker yogurt? Do you mix it back together or drain off the liquid?

Draining results in a thicker, creamier yogurt. "Greek yogurt is just regular yogurt with the whey strained out," says Kajikit. "My grandfather made yogurt and yogurt cheese and farmer's cheese letting each one drip through a cloth and then throwing away the water," says rccola. "When it gets dense enough, use it as a spread on toast or fruit, especially bananas with nutmeg."

But the whey contains nutrients that some hounds are reluctant to waste. "Yogurt whey is a combination of sugars, proteins and minerals, particularly calcium," says JungMann. "The more whey you drain from the yogurt, the more sugar and calcium you drain, however you do end up with a more protein-dense final product."

If you like the richer texture of strained yogurt but don't want to lose the whey, drain it off and save it for another use. ipsedixit likes whey for cooking oatmeal or baking bread. It lasts a long time, too, says JungMann—a month or more in the refrigerator—and it freezes well. No reason not to keep it for some future use.

Discuss: When yogurt separates - mix it in or drain it?

Hakka Rice Snacks: Umami Bombs

Hakka rice snacks, also known as sticky rice dumplings, are "greenish, glutinous objects" made from soft dough and any number of fillings. DaveCook recently tried two from a Chinatown bakery: One was full of sweet, sticky rice while the other contained a crunchy, slawlike filling. "The outside is flavored with mugwort and sweetened," says calf of the latter. "The savory filling includes shredded dried radish, mushrooms, pork, maybe also onion, dried shrimp. In other words, maximum umami."

Discuss: Name that filling!

Photograph by DaveCook

Overheard on the General Topics Board

"Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. As a lifelong Marylander I never really understood all the fuss. I'd have the occasional crabcake, but generally I'd prefer a good burger to sitting around picking crabs. Until one afternoon at a friend of a friend's place. They had caught the crabs themselves, and prepared them almost immediately out of the water. They were incredible, but have even further driven me from any other crab picking experience in any less than optimal environment." - laststandchili

"The filet never has bones, catfish doesn't have nasty scales, and the meat is sweet and never fishy. It is a winner for people who don't much like fish. I fix it oven-fried—give it a squirt of PAM and roll it in bread crumbs then bake it at 425 degrees so that the outside gets crunchy. Because it's so sweet it goes well with a tangy sauce so I either make a sweet-and-sour pineapple sauce (onion, green pepper, a can of crushed pineapple, vinegar, sugar, thicken with cornstarch and serve the fish with rice) or a fresh salsa and have the catfish Cuban-style with black beans and rice." - Querencia

"I know of no USDA approved processing centers for poopy (yes, that is actually what donkey meat is technically called!). If you are traveling I should point out however that Venice is far from the only place that serves it. Saucisson d'Ane is a specialty of the French town of Arles (and horse sausage is common throughout the Camargue area). Actually you may have already tasted it. I remember reading that it is pretty common to add horse and donkey to the pork in many European dry sausages, common enough [that] the USDA was working on a way to be able to DNA test sausage meat to determine what animals were present." - jumpingmonk

Pigging Out on Carnival Foods

Carnival and festival foods aren't usually subtle. Rather, they celebrate the sweet, the salty, and the deep-fried.

Fried dough in various guises is a staple. For many hounds, this means churros. "Oh those fluffy, crunchy-on-the-outside cinnamon-sugar coated delights," says Popkin. kattyeyes knows sweet fried dough as pizza fritte. "I don't mind a hit of the brush with melted butter, either, before sprinkling the sugar on," she says. The English version, says smartie, is fried doughnuts hot out of the frier, dusted with caster sugar. "[T]hey taste like funnel cakes in a way but are doughier," says smartie. And sunangelmb loves the fried dough balls called zeppole at Italian carnivals: "So light and delicious, they were like eating sweet balloons." READ MORE

The Wonders of Fresh Soursop

If you're lucky enough to score some fresh soursop (also known as guanábana), what should you do with it? Just eat it, says Pan, like they do in Malaysia. Steve agrees—the fruit needs no recipe to shine. "Fresh soursop is a rare treat, and one of the great food experiences of my life," Steve says. "You don't eat the seeds (supposedly some toxicity therein), but the seeds are contained in a pulpy sac which has all the wonderful flavor." UES Mayor only likes soursop when it's ice cold, recommending that you chill before eating. And after eating, expect to chill: Steve reports that his soursop session made him very sleepy for the rest of the afternoon.

If you're determined to cook with the fruit, try making it into ice cream, says ladooShoppe. And seamunky likes it in smoothie and sorbet form—perfect for summer.

Discuss: Fresh Soursop - What to do with it?

Reaping Umami from Dried Seafood

Dried fish, squid, scallops, and other seafood are intensely tasty on their own and add umami richness to other foods. luckyfatima loves Chinese dishes that feature a mix of both fresh and dried, rehydrated squid. "One animal, two different textures and tastes in the same dish," she says. When in Thailand, bulavinaka always gets cooked dried cuttlefish from street vendors. "The hawkers will quickly roast it, then push it through a roller to tenderize it," says bulavinaka. "It's served with a sweet/hot chile sauce. It's the closest thing I can think of from the dried seafood category that resembles fruit leather." READ MORE

Worth the Hunt: Raw Sea Scallops with Roe

If you've never had a fresh, raw sea scallop with its roe still intact, David11238 seriously advises you to change that. Not to be dramatic, but it's "heaven served on Neptune's plate," he says. "Except for the digestive sac (the black gunk) which I threw out, the scallop has all of these tastes going on: crunchy & briny eyes, creamy & mild muscle/abductor and the best part, IMO, if you're lucky enough to get it, the roe," David11238 says. READ MORE

Nigella Seeds and How to Use Them

Nigella seeds (Nigella sativa) are flavorful and jet black. They're known variously as charnushka, black onion seeds, and kalonji, says beachmouse, and they're widely used in some regional Indian cuisines. andieb uses them when she makes cheoreg (Armenian sweet bread). "Love the taste of them, so I use very liberally," she says.

Nigella seeds also find their way into panch phoron, a Bengali spice blend of five whole seeds that also includes fennel, cumin, black mustard, and fenugreek, says kathleen440. "It goes amazingly well with potatoes," she says. "Try it in a breakfast hash!" Or bake some nigella seeds into Indian naan.

If you can't find nigella seeds in your local Indian, Bengali, or Armenian grocery store (assuming you're lucky enough to have one of those), they're available from Penzeys Spices, says AmyH.

Discuss: Nigella/charnushka seeds.