Ask Sara: TV Chef Answers Your Questions

Celebrated author and TV chef Sara Moulton is the food editor at "Good Morning America."

You've written to her with questions about what you'd like to learn how to do in the kitchen, and she responded.

Sara Moulton Answers Your Questions

Suzanne Jones: How do you sliver whole almonds ? No one I ask seems to know, and I cannot find any info online.

Sara's Answer:

Suzanne,

I have never tried to sliver almonds myself. And I have never questioned how they did it at the almond factory. It is just something I buy already done at the supermarket. Most supermarkets sell almonds whole, sliced or slivered. Let them do the work for you.

Bert Rosenberg: I bought some skirt steaks and marinated them for an hour in teriyaki sauce and seasonings and BBQ'd them, and they were very tough. Any suggestions on what to do with the cooked meat and how to make it tender? Thank you.

Sara's Answer:

Bert,

A marinade will not penetrate more than ΒΌ-inch, and unless you have an ingredient like ginger/papaya or pineapple in the marinade, it will not actually tenderize the meat (plain acid will not work). A marinade like the kind you used will only flavor a piece of protein. The easiest way to serve skirt steak and not have everyone choke on it (because it is so tough) is to slice it very thin against the grain after it is cooked and rested.

Lolly Isayeff: How do you pick garlic? Sometimes when I cut into a new clove there is a green stem inside. I usually cut the green out. Is there a way to tell if the garlic is fresh?

Sara's Answer:

Lolly,

According to Linda and Fred Griffith in their book"Garlic, Garlic, Garlic" (Houghton Mifflin 1998): "Fresh garlic has the best flavor in the first few months after its harvest. Since most garlic grown in the United States is harvested during July and August, that makes late summer and fall prime garlic time.

Properly stored, California softneck varieties, the kind you are most likely to find in your supermarket, may last into early March. When those little green spouts appear, you know your garlic is beginning to show signs of deterioration. Just remove the sprout, and you'll still have a decent tasting garlic clove."

After the California crop is done, supermarkets will stock garlic from Mexico and South America. What you should look for is firm heads with smooth skins and no sprouts.

Bernice Cutler: No matter what I do, I cannot get heavy cream to whip. Is it because it is ultra-pasteurized? I have put the beaters and bowl in the freezer, and have the cream really cold, but I still have no luck with this. What else can I do?

Sara's Answer:

Bernice,

You have already guessed the right answer -- ultra pasteurized cream does not whip well. Try to find pasteurized, and you will have much greater success.

Diane Street: What is the difference between sea salt and table salt, and when would you use sea salt instead of table salt?

Sara's Answer:

Diane,

Most table salt has additives -- a free-flowing agent and, often, iodine. If you want to use a salt with no additives, reach for a salt, whether it is kosher or sea salt, that does not list any additives on the label. Most chefs prefer the clean taste of pure salt without additives. Many sea salts will also contain trace minerals that reflect where they were harvested. Aside from the additive issue, there is also the grain size to take into consideration. Table salt is very fine and dissolves more readily than a coarser salt such as kosher or most sea salts. For baking, I like to use a fine salt and will reach either for table salt or for a fine sea salt.

Ron: I love to cook, but my problem is when it comes to using spices. Is there a "do's and don'ts" when it comes to spices? I guess I am asking for the ABC's of spices. Can you help?

Sara's Answer:

Ron,

Here are a few basic guidelines: 1. Store spices in a cool, dry place away from light. If you do they will keep their potency for up to six months.

2. Whenever possible, buy spices whole and grind them yourself (a good gadget for this is a coffee grinder).

3. When you cook with them, don't just throw them into a dish. Either toast them in a dry pan over low heat until they smell aromatic or saute them first in a little oil, which helps to bring out their flavor.

Bobbie Kimball: When cooking a turkey, do you cover it with foil? How long do you leave the foil on? Do you take it off halfway? Thanks a million.

Sara's Answer:

Bobbie,

You should cover the turkey with foil for the first half of the cooking time. I just roasted one the other day, and that worked very well. It helps to keep the breast moist, and the skin still browns with half the cooking time. I also add some broth to the roasting pan -- that creates more of a steamier environment, which also helps to keep the breast moist.

For more tips from Sara Moulton check out her website.

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