You've written to her asking questions about what you want to do in the kitchen -- and she responded.
Sara Moulton Answers Your Questions
Connie Abeling: I am trying to expand my horizons and would like to know how to pick a good white or red wine for cooking. I don't like the taste of wine to drink but would love to try and cook with it (maybe I will learn to like them if I cook with them). I have no idea how to pick a good white or red wine for drinking so that I could use one or the other in a recipe that calls for wine.(I know you don't have to use wine and you can use a substitution in place of it but I want to try to use wine in cooking.) Any suggestions on how to choose a good wine? Also how long will an open bottle of wine last and should it be stored at room temperature or in the frig? Thank you in advance if you could please help me.
Sara's Answer: Generally you are looking for a dry wine unless of course you are making a dessert. Pinot Grigio would be a good candidate in the white department and a Spanish Rioja would work in the red department. They are both food friendly wines, not too aggressive and won't break the bank. After you have opened them up to cook with, you can keep them in the fridge for a week or so or you can even measure the wine out in one cup amounts and freeze it for further recipes. Actually, adding wine to recipes is a good idea because even if you don't taste the wine itself, the dish will taste better because alcohol is a conductor of flavor.
Tom Mitchell: I would like to know of a good sauce for salmon. We eat mostly white flaky fish - flounder, cod, etc. and I usually do a shallot/ white wine sauce and it works fine. We would like to try and eat salmon but we are hestitant not having a good sauce to go with it.l
Sara's Answer: Salmon is a fatty fish so any high acid sauce would be the perfect compliment. For example – a tomato sauce flavored with garlic and olives (and anchovies if you like them). Also, salmon and most fish can handle strong flavors since fish is inherently sort of bland – sauces based on wasabi mustard or horseradish work well. You can even just stir some of those ingredients into sour cream, crème fraiche or yogurt for a quick sauce on top of cooked salmon.
Erika Plodzien: Half our house is vegetarian and half "meat and potato" lovers. Do you have any suggestions on a meal that I could make for all of us to enjoy?
Sara's Answer: Erika, One good way to handle that is just to make sure that there are plenty of vegetable sides on the table every night. And why don't you try this Lentil and Eggplant Casserole (excerpted from "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners," Simon and Schuster 2002)?
Lentil and Eggplant Pastitsio
Yields 6 servings about 9 cups
Hands-on time: 45 minutes
Total preparation time: 1 hour 5 to 10 minutes
1 cup lentils
4 cups water
1 medium onion
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 small Italian eggplant or 2 Japanese eggplants (about 8 ounces)
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves or 1/3 teaspoon dried
One 8-ounce can tomato sauce (preferably fire roasted)
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 ounces feta cheese
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) macaroni
1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Bring the lentils, water, and 3/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are just tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.
While the lentils are cooking, finely chop the onion. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot. Reduce the heat to medium-low; add the onion and cook 5 minutes or until it has softened. Press in the garlic and cook 1 minute longer.
Peel the eggplant and cut it into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups). Increase the heat to medium high; add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and the eggplant to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes until the eggplant is golden. Chop the oregano (about 1 teaspoon). Stir the tomato sauce, wine, oregano, cinnamon, and cayenne into the eggplant mixture. Bring it to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to low and simmer 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Drain the lentils and add them to the tomato mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Place and oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Oil a 9-inch square baking pan or shallow 2-quart baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.
Gently warm the milk. Rinse out the saucepan in which the lentils were cooked; add the butter and place over medium-low heat until melted. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking, for 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and simmer 5 minutes. Crumble the feta cheese (about 1/2 cup) and add it to the milk mixture along with the nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the macaroni following package instructions; drain (about 4 cups). Microplane-grate the cheese (about 2/3 cup) or grate on the fine side of a metal grater (about 1/3 cup). Arrange one half of the macaroni in the bottom of an oiled 9-inch square baking pan or shallow 2-quart baking dish. Top with half the lentil sauce and sprinkle one third of the Parmigiano-Reggiano on top. Repeat with the remaining pasta, sauce and one third more of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Top with the feta sauce and smooth it to cover all the lentil sauce. Top with the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano and bake the pastitio on the middle shelf of the oven 20 to 25 minutes until bubbling around the edges.
John Edwards: Because of health issues, I am switching to wheat flour and not using bleached presifted white flour. In using wheat flour, will there be a difference in the amount of flour being used in recipes? For instance, for 2 crust pies, it calls for 2 cups flour, will this change if using wheat flour.
Sara's Answer: John, I had to reach out to the baking experts, King Arthur Flour (the oldest flour company in the country!) to get the proper answer to your question and here is what they said:
If you are following a recipe that calls for whole wheat flour, go ahead and use all whole wheat flour (the recipe will have been developed to accommodate the properties of whole wheat flour) but if the recipe did not call for whole wheat flour do not substitute all the white flour with whole wheat. Start with a small amount of whole wheat, maybe ¼ of the flour amount and see how you like the end result. If you like it then up the whole wheat amount to 1/3 of the flour amount and see how you like that.
Whole wheat flour provides a chewier denser end result which is not necessarily what you are looking for in a pie crust.