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‘Culinary cornucopia’ addresses curiosities found in the kitchen

‘Culinary cornucopia’ addresses curiosities found in the kitchen
‘Culinary cornucopia’ addresses curiosities found in the kitchen
Suetta Tingler

It’s time to pull out the cornucopia to decorate the Thanksgiving holiday table. This cone-shaped container, sometimes referred to as a “horn of plenty” and often made of woven wicker, has come to stand as the symbol for abundance and prosperity during the fall harvest season.

‘Culinary cornucopia’ addresses curiosities found in the kitchenMy November kitchen “culinary cornucopia” is not filled with fruits, vegetables and grains, but instead one that overflows with random cooking curiosities to share.

What does “kitchen approved” mean? Recipes that have been tested and evaluated to ensure published recipes shared in selected magazines and books are the very best with dependable results.

Herb or Spice? In culinary terms, herb refers to any green or leafy part of a plant used for seasoning and flavoring of food whereas a spice refers to the part of a plant other than the leaf such as berries, bark, root or seeds used for seasoning and flavoring.

What’s in your pantry “rubbed” or “ground” sage? Both are forms of dried sage leaves. Rubbed is fluffy with less flavor; ground is a dense powder with a more concentrated flavor. One teaspoon rubbed is equal to ½ teaspoon ground sage. Use ground in the holiday stuffing and marinades.

Dressing or Stuffing? Stuffing is defined as a “mixture” used for placing inside another food such as the cavity of a turkey or other poultry. Dressing is a “mixture” baked in a pan outside of the poultry’s cavity. Typically, it’s “dressing” in the South; “stuffing” in the Northeast and everywhere else.

Pie or cobbler? A pie, sweet or savory, is baked in a dish encased in either a double or single crust or somewhere in between like a lattice top. It always has a bottom crust. A cobbler is a free-form sweet dessert without a bottom crust with a sweet biscuit topping that is dropped over the top of the fruit to create a “cobbled” or untidy-looking baked surface.

What’s the best kept secret to baking a cheesecake? For a perfectly smooth texture that’s not too soft, leave the cheesecake in the oven (turned off) with the door ajar for 30 minutes after baking.

Stock or broth? Stock is made from bones and vegetables; broth is made from meat and vegetables. Broth is thinner and can be drunk as a soup. Because stock includes bones and is simmered for hours, heat coaxes out the rich collagen flavors along with the natural gelatins from the bones. When refrigerated, stock is usually solid (like Jell-O) while broth keeps a liquid form. Often these terms are used interchangeable in cooking.

The “what” and “when” to using coconut milk, coconut cream or cream of coconut? Coconut milk is a blend of coconut flesh and water and has the consistency of cow’s milk; use to pour on breakfast cereals, beverage and in coffee. Coconut milk is not interchangeable with coconut cream. Coconut cream is made from coconut milk and has the consistency of heavy whipping cream; it’s unsweetened but high in fat and calories. Canned coconut cream is used in savory Asian dishes, stews and curries. It can be whipped as a dairy-free substitute for whipped cream. Cream of coconut is a heavily sweetened form of coconut cream used in tropical drinks like piña coladas and desserts.

New England or Manhattan clam chowder? New England is thick, creamy and a milky-white color. Manhattan is tomatoey, brothy, clear with a reddish tint; contains no cream.

Quick bread or yeast bread? Quick breads are not left to rise before baking; therefore, the reason for their name. They do not use yeast as a leavening agent but rather baking soda and baking powder. Examples include biscuits, muffins, cornbread and scones. Yeast breads use yeast as a leavening agent; the addition of sugar, honey and warm water help the yeast to rise.

Are soy sauce and teriyaki sauce the same? They look alike but the difference is in the ingredients. Soy sauce is made of fermented soybean paste, water and salt. Soy sauce is the base of teriyaki sauce but it often includes other ingredients such as brown sugar, ginger and garlic. Soy sauce tastes salty while teriyaki has a sweeter taste. Due to added ingredients, teriyaki usually costs more.

File powder is closer to home than you think. File powder is used to flavor and thicken gumbo, soups and stews, a savory spice used in Louisiana cuisine. Made from the dried leaves of the sassafras tree, it produces a distinct flavor taste. Because file powder becomes stringy when heated in liquid, it always is added off the heat. Creole cooks insist that file powder is not to be used in gumbo recipes that call for okra and okra is not to be used in recipes that calls for file powder. Why order from the pricey markets in Louisianna when you can blend your own file powder here in Indiana. File powder can be made by drying sassafras leaves and pulsing in a food processor until a fine powder; store in a tightly sealed jar for later use. If no file powder, add okra to gumbo or cornstarch mixed with root beer.

What’s a simple vegetarian substitute for ground beef? A good vegetarian substitute in recipes calling for ground beef is cooked bulgar.

What is scrod on a seafood menu? Scrod is any young white-fleshed fish, often cod, haddock, pollock or a similar fish that has been deboned and prepared ready for cooking. Thus, scrod (Select Catch Received On the Day) often is referred to as “the catch of the day.”

What’s a caper? How to use? A salted and pickled flower bud from a Mediterranean plant; its taste is that of salty and lemony complementing smooth, buttery textures. Cured capers are part of the Mediterranean Diet. Add capers to pasta dishes, sauces, tuna salad, deviled eggs, bagels and lox and chicken piccata. Green olives can be substituted.

Blue cheese or Gorgonzola cheese? Blue cheese is a variety of cheeses made from cow, sheep or goat’s milk. Gorgonzola is a kind of blue cheese made exclusively from cow’s milk with a mold added and allowed to age for three to four months. These cheeses vary in flavor, texture and appearance. Gorgonzola is the most popular of the blue cheese varieties. Its taste is considered milder in comparison to aged blue cheese. The texture of Gorgonzola tends to be softer than most blue cheeses and appears to have veins of green and blue rather than specs of green and blue color as do other blue cheeses.

Omelet or frittata? Both are egg dishes but have their own distinct form and method of preparation. The omelet comes from France, quicker to prepare with less fuss. Omelets are often filled with cheese, vegetables and meat. A frittata has a more custard-like center than an omelet filled with vegetables, herbs, cheese and meats and takes more time to prepare than an omelet. In simplest terms, think of a frittata much like an omelet that is not folded.

Are all cinnamons equal? No. Most supermarket brands are the cheap Indonesian variety sometimes labeled “cassia.” Saigon or Vietnamese cinnamons have a higher essential-oil content, which makes the spicey flavor richer and more potent.

Is Baby Swiss the same as regular Swiss cheese? No, these cheeses differ in flavor and texture. Baby Swiss is generally believed to be lesser quality than Swiss cheese since its aging period is shorter, thus the flavor of Baby Swiss is sweeter, not as firm with a smoother texture with fewer and smaller holes than that of Swiss. Baby Swiss compares closely to that of Lacy Swiss cheese.

Anchovies on your pizza? Anchovies are small, oily fish that run in large schools and are foraged by larger fish sea birds and marine mammals. They are known for their salty, fishy taste and are ingredients in remoulade and Worcestershire Sauce. It’s best to water rinse before eating. Anchovies are not the same as sardines, which are a bigger fish, milder in flavor and aren’t used as anchovies are in dishes. Peruvian fisheries provide about 68% of the catch used in the world. The first Caesar salads did not have anchovies as an ingredient.

Do you need a Belgian waffle maker to make Belgian waffles? Yes, it’s best. Belgian waffles are thicker than their classic counterparts and have large pockets that can hold loads of fruit, whipped cream and syrup. You will likely need Belgian waffle mix if you want the real thing because such mixes include extra leaveners such as whipped egg whites.

Can parchment paper be used interchangeable with waxed paper? Wax paper because both sides have a thin coating of wax makes it moisture resistant and non-stick but it is not heat resistant. Parchment paper is moisture resistant and non-stick but because it contains silicone it is also heat resistant and generally can be used in ovens up to 450 degrees. Do not line baking sheets or cake pans with wax paper because they could catch on fire in a hot oven.

Why is coffee referred to as a “cup of Joe”? According to legend, Josephus Daniels was the Secretary of the Navy during World War I. In 1914, he banned alcohol consumption on all U.S. Navy ships. Since coffee was the next strongest substitute, sailors started calling it “a cup of Josephus,” which got shortened to a “cup of Joe.”

Spilling the beans about Garbanzo, Ceci and Chickpeas. Yes, these are all the same beans other than for their names. Garbanzo is Spanish, Ceci is Italian and Chickpea is English. The best substitute is cannellini beans.

Jalapeño and chipotle peppers are the same but different. Green jalapeños add a bite to your food but without making you sweat. Chipotles have bolder, spicier flavor. Chipotles are prepared by allowing the natural jalapeño to ripen until red on the vine and then smoked. They are characterized by their smokey flavor and usually served in adobo sauce, dried whole or as a chipotle powder. Use chipotles in sauces, soups and stews. Fresh, green jalapeños make good salsas, added to nachos and salads.

May your heart overflow with blessings this Thanksgiving season.