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09/10/2010

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (9/10/10) ~

Culinary Q & A #2

For all of you "regulars", you know it has been a busy week in Melanie's Kitchen.  We cooked and posted a lot of great recipes here on Kitchen Encounters and received four great questions for our weekly Friday Culinary Q&A today!

For all "newcomers", welcome!  To leave comments or ask questions, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away... or e-mail me directly! 

PICT0787Q.  Jeanne asks:  Hi Mel!  I marinated a salmon fillet in brown sugar, wine and lemon juice.  The recipe calls to marinate for 6 hours.  The question I have is, do I cook the salmon in the marinade or do I remove it from the marinade and just cook the salmon?

6a0120a8551282970b019103c6c5d4970cA.  Kitchen Encounters:  Jeans!  How nice to hear from you again this week!  I find it really annoying when a detail like that is left out of a recipe.  For the most part, the marinated food gets removed and cooked according to the recipe directions (grilling, broiling, baking, frying, etc.).  However,  I have a couple of marinated fish recipes in which the fish goes into a glass baking dish, the marinade gets poured over the top and the fish gets baked.  Again, I would have hoped the recipe would have given you that information!  How did the salmon turn out?  Since lemon juice was added, I'm  thinking 6 hours is probably too long to marinate, as the acidity in the fresh lemon will start to precook the fish.  Whenever I use fresh lemon, lime or orange juice, I always limit my marinating time to about 1 hour.  

Note:  Because most marinades contain acidic ingredients, marinating should be done in glass, ceramic or stainless-steel containers and NEVER aluminum.  In many cases, plastic ziptop bags are a sanitary, disposible, cleanup-free container that works great.  Food should always be covered and refrigerated while marinating.  When fruit is similarly soaked in a marinade, the term used is "macerate"!

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Q.  PSUinBOSSton:  Is it ok  if I call you jesse.'s mom?  I enjoy cooking and I'm always looking for ways to make good meals without too much planning ahead on the days when my wife works (she gets home later on those evenings).  I think one untapped answer for me is the pressure cooker.  I have never used one and am intimidated.  Do you have an opinion on the device and, if you do recommend usage, do you recommend any specific recipes?  Thanks!

A.  Kitchen Encounters (aka jessedotsmom):  Great question!  A little background info about pressure cookers:  They were our grandmothers' "answer" to the microwave (which wasn't invented yet).  Since pressure cookers can only be filled one-half or two-thirds full, I recommend you purchase an 8-quart model.  This will hold 4-quarts of ingredients, and, will be big enough to put a bowl in, if you are steaming rice or grains. 

Pretty much all recipes that involve braising or stewing are ideal for the pressure cooker.  In my experience, the foods that you want to look brown at the end of the cooking process should be browned or seared before they go into the pressure cooker.  One thing a pressure cooker is particularly good at doing is:  taking tough, inexpensive cuts of meat and turning them into fork-tender delicacies.  Root vegetables, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and beets, can and will cook in a little as 10-20 minutes!

51ch5IfpipL._SY300_I will tell you:  don't be intimidated.  Today's pressure cookers are not only extremely safe and easy to use, they are a great way to relax and watch your favorite team play football while your dinner cooks expeditiously.  Read your instruction manual thoroughly as pressure cookers do require a bit of maintenance. 

I recommend picking up a book on pressure cooking.  The one I like the best is:  The Ultimate Pressure Cooker Cookbook by Tom Lacalamita ($21.95).

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IMG_8753Q.  Abby:  Mel, I was wondering if you could explain to me what yellow curry is and how it differs from say, red or green.  Thanks!

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Abby, I've been wanting to answer this question for a long time!  Thai food is a passion of mine!!!  In Thai cuisine, there are three major kinds of curries, each one identified by its color:  Green, Red and Yellow!  They have a soupy consistency and are served with rice or rice noodles.  They contain various ingredients:  Thai eggplant (not our American eggplant), chicken, beef, pork, shrimp and duck.  Vegetarian versions contain ingredients like:  Thai eggplant, pumpkin, squash and tofu.

They differ in:  their balance of hot, sour, sweet and salty.  Hot, of course, comes from chile peppers; sour comes from kaffir lime leaves, lime juice and/or lime zest; sweet comes from palm sugar, coconut milk and/or coconut cream; salty comes from fish sauce and shrimp paste.        

Thai Green Curry:  can be and tends to be just as hot as red curry, except green chiles are used in the preparation of the curry paste instead of red chiles.  However, green curry, regardless of the heat, has a definite sweetness to it not associated with red curries, which comes from the addition of palm sugar.

Thai Red Curry:  is made from a spicy blend of pulverized red chiles, garlic, shallots, the root galangal and shrimp paste.  The red curry paste is made using the same ingredients as the green curry paste, with the exception of the red chiles. 

Thai Yellow Curry:  is richer, creamier and less spicy than the other Thai curries.  In addition to the coconut milk, coconut cream is added to tone down the spiciness.  It has a slight hint of sweetness and subtle spice, from the additions of palm sugar and cinnamon.  Its lovely yellow color comes from using yellow chiles in the curry paste and the vibrant yellow spice turmeric.

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Q.  Charlotte:  Where in the world can I find pumpkin in cans?  And, if you can't help me, please let me know how I can make my own pumpkin puree and can I freeze it?  I use tons of it for the upcoming holidays and someone told me there is a shortage!  I look forward to your advice.

Roasted Pumpkin Puree #1 (Pumpkins with Cans)A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Wow Charlotte.  It's hard to believe you cannot find pumpkin puree anywhere and I wasn't aware of any shortage.  That being said, I have been making my own Roasted Pumpkin Puree for years, so I don't ordinarily keep a look out for it.  It is quite easy to make, freezes beautifully and once you make your own you will NEVER go back to the canned stuff!  As per your personal request, I have e-mailed you my recipe.  For the rest of you folks, I promise to do a blog about preparing Roasted Pumpkin puree and my uses for it as soon as my pumpkins (out in Joe's garden) are full grown and ripe!

Enjoy your weekend everyone, and once again:  To leave a comment or ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away... or e-mail me directly!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Commentary and Photo courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)

Comments

Thank you so much Jill! You are THE pressure cooker expert. I encourage everyone to read, hear and listen to all of your expert advice. I will be passing this along on this Friday's (9/17/10) Culinary Q&A on Kitchen Encounters! Let me know when your book is published and I will announce it here on KE for you!!!

Your comments about the pressure cooker are right on except that most cut-up root vegetables such as potatoes, winter squash, sweet potatoes, parsnips, etc. will only take 3 to 4 minutes to cook under pressure. You must use liquid in the pressure cooker and the new ones are quite safe. They make fantastic beans from presoaked or dry very quickly, as in less than 30 minutes.
I have a pressure cooking DVD, Pressure Cooking: A Fresh Look, Delicious Dishes in Minutes that helps alleviate the fear of using a pressure cooker. You can find it at http://www.pressurecookingonline.com. You can also see me with the pressure cooker in action on You Tube at http://www.youtube.com/TheVQ.
Thanks for recommending pressure cooking -- it can change your life.

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