Chat Leftovers: Powdered Vanilla, Ham Surplus and Food Blogs
As promised, I'm following up with a batch of questions left in this week's What's Cooking queue. Your contributions are vital to the mix, so please don't be bashful in the comments area below.
Alexandria, Va.: Where in the D.C. area can one buy powdered vanilla?
For those who don't know, powdered vanilla is the ground-up version of a dried vanilla bean. It contains no alcohol, but likely would include the addition of some kind of sugar or dextrose base. Alexandria, you need not go out of your neighborhood for your powdery pursuit; head straight for independent cookware oasis La Cuisine. The powder is available via its Web site, so I'm betting if you give them a call, you'll have the stuff pronto. My second choice would be Sur La Table's Pentagon City store, which carries a well-stocked selection of cake and candy supplies.
Web sites/blogs: Kim -- what are your favorite Web resources for reliable recipes? I love 101 Cookbooks and would like a few others to keep an eye on.
Here's a recent roundup of recipe-centric blogs and portals that tickle my fancy, and last year, I compiled of list of meatless blogs that are doing equally good work. The Web is constantly in flux, so a certain amount of diligence and a Web filing system are paramount to keeping on top of things. To that end, I wonder how many of you are subscribing to RSS (real simply syndication) feeds to stay current with all of your Web favorites or if perhaps you like bookmarking tools, like del.icio.us?
Soon I hope to have a blog roll in the left-hand margin on this very page, so stay tuned.
Oklahoma: I bought some whole nutmeg. How much is usable? Do you grate all of it or just the outside?
First thing you should do is try to crack open the nutmeg, and if there is an outer shell, you will see it pronto (I have a bag of whole nutmeg from Grenada in my freezer and most of the nutmegs still have their outer shell.) Peel away if this is the case, then you can begin grating. You'll see (and smell) pretty quickly just how aromatic this seed is, and a little goes a long way. The whole thing is usable, and it will last you a good long time. Grate only what you need. Did you know that the spice called mace also comes from the nutmeg fruit? It's the outer red membrane of the seed and is dried and then ground.
Silver Spring, Md.: Help! I have most of a 9 lb. spiral sliced ham left from Easter. I am making split pea soup with the bone and some of the meat tonight, but we still have so much yummy ham left. We are having ham and eggs for breakfast every morning, but there is only so much that two people can eat in a day. It seems like I have tons of ideas for leftover turkey recipes after Thanksgiving, but I am at a loss for anything creative to do with this ham. Do you have any favorites you could pass on?
Okay, in no particular order, some hammy thoughts that come to mind:
* Some version of a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, be it a croque monsieur, a Monte Cristo or ham and swiss on rye with a dab of Dijon mustard.
* What about some take on a Chef's salad, with some of those leftover hard-boiled colored eggs, a bed of mixed greens, you know the drill. You could also go the frisee route, and fry up cubed ham into little lardons and top the whole thing off with a lemon-y vinaigrette and a poached egg.
* When I think of ham, I always think of the quiche Lorraine my girl Karla makes on Christmas morning. Paired with a tart salad, you've got dinner or Sunday brunch plans...
* Or what about deviled ham? Here's a recipe from Food & Wine that I'm sure will be much tastier than the Underwood stuff from a can. Boy, that takes me back to the 1970s. I can see the white paper label with the devil's pitchfork like it was yesterday!
The last word:
Pie crust!: I am a convert who once was very scared of it! I was raised on frozen crusts, and have in the last year learned to make my own. I make lots of kinds of crust now, the food processor helps, a glass of wine (not in the crust -- in the cook!) helps, and leaving a lot of time helps. It's not always perfect, but i'm not cooking for the king. It's just my family, and they're grateful for dinner.
Bethesda, Md.: I missed the chat today but reading through the transcript I noticed the question about CSAs and wanted to add my two cents. The half share we had last year that was great! We barely went into the produce aisle for months because we didn't need the old standards, we had new things to experiment with. We had shared with family when we started to get overwhelmed by certain items and had a dinner party one night with several neighbors with about 90 percent of the meal coming from the CSA. I think we definitely ate more veggies and my boyfriend discovered that he really did like some things he had previously avoided. Both of us missed it when the season ended.
And one more for the road...
I went back and forth on the idea of CSAs and finally decided going to the farmer's market every weekend is the best way for me to #1 support a local farmer #2 eat more variety of seasonal foods and #3 try new things. I knew I would be throwing away produce if I got a box every week, even if I shared it.
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