You've written to her with questions about what you'd like to learn in the kitchen, and she has responded.
Sara Moulton Answers Your Questions
Betty Brannon: What are ramps?
Ramps are wild leeks, native to America. They have a very short season in the spring so if you see them, grab them and add them to some recipes. The bulb on a ramp looks like a scallion, the stem is pink and the leaves are flat and dark green. Ramps have a very pungent smell and a rather pungent taste when eaten raw (strong and garlicky). They mellow slightly when cooked, tasting more like a combo of onions and garlic. All parts of the ramp are edible. In West Virginia where ramps are especially plentiful, they have many ramp festivals.
Patty McAvin: Hi Sara, I have not cooked for a while. I am starting to again but I have forgotten how to season. I put too much salt or not enough. It is with other seasoning to. I used to make a great meat loaf. My son is 47 and loved my meat loaf. I just can't get it back- it is the same with everything. I just can't get the seasoning. Can you help me. Patty
Don't despair, just practice. Add salt to you recipes as you go in small amounts and taste constantly. I say to add as you go because if you wait until the end, the salt will not do its job which is to enhance the flavor of the ingredient or the recipe. If you add it at the end it will taste like a recipe with a sprinkling of salt on top.
In the case of meatloaf, which you cannot taste raw, add a little salt, make a tiny hamburger and cook it in a small skillet. Taste the hamburger and if you think it needs more seasoning, add more salt and pepper to the raw meatloaf mixture and then cook another tiny hamburger to check the seasoning again.
Another problem you might be having is combining raw ingredients (most of which are naturally low in sodium) with processed ingredients, such as that tomato soup in a can. Most processed ingredients are notorious for being loaded with sodium. I would steer clear of them or just cut back or try to find alternatives. Again, in the case of meatloaf, you could glaze it with a low sodium tomato sauce or even ketchup instead of canned soup.
Gloria McGlamery: I am having a piano recital on May 19. I want to have something light to eat following the recital. I have had cookies, cupcakes, etc. The usual. This year since it could be my last year to teach I'd like something a little different. I usually have about 25 to 30 people attending. Sometimes there are more and other times less. Thanks for any suggestions that you might have.
Here is a different recipe (healthier than cookies and cupcakes and perfect for strawberry season). It is from my cookbook, "Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals," Broadway Books, 2005. You can halve and hollow the strawberries ahead of time, make the filling and put it in a pastry bag or resealable plastic bag. Then right before you serve the strawberries, pipe a little of the mixture from the bag (cut a hole in the corner of the plastic bag if that is what you are using) into each strawberry. If you stuff them ahead of time they get watery.
Makes 4 servings Hands-on time: 20 minutes Total preparation time: 20 minutes
8 large strawberries (about 1 pound)
2 ounces low-fat cream cheese (about 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 ounce bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped candied orange peel (if you can't find it you can substitute a teaspoon of freshly grated orange rind)
Cut each strawberry in half lengthwise through the cap. Arrange the strawberry halves, cut side up, on a serving plate. Trim a thin slice from the bottom if necessary to make each half sit evenly. Using a small spoon or melon baller, scoop out a hollow in the center of the cut side of each strawberry. Reserve the strawberry scraps for another use (or eat them.)
Combine the cream cheese and sugar in a small bowl; stir in the chocolate and orange zest. Divide the cream cheese mixture into the hollows in the strawberries and serve right away.
Recipe for a very tender and moist pound cake; but not greasy. Thank you! Sal
Here is my favorite light (non greasy) pound cake recipe. It comes from a book by Susan Purdy called "A Piece of Cake," 1989 Atheneum. The cake is good all by itself but we used to make the whiskey cake variation (see below) all the time in my dining room at Gourmet Magazine and that was a really big hit.
BEST POUND CAKE
Makes one cake, serving 8 to 10
2 cups unsifted cake flour (9 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks, at room temperature)
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Spread solid shortening on bottom and sides of either a 9 x 5 x 3inch loaf pan or a 6 ½ cup capacity tube pan. Position rack in center of oven . Preheat oven to 325 F. In a mixing bowl with a sturdy spoon, or in the electric mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle (to avoid whipping excess air into the batter), beat the butter until soft and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until very light and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
By hand or with the mixer on lowest speed, gradually stir in the flour mixture. Blend well. Turn batter into the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour and 15 to 20 minutes, or until cake is well risen and golden on top, and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Then slide a knife around the sides to loosen it. Tip the cake out of the pan, set it upright on the rack, and cool completely.
MOTHER'S WHISKEY CAKE:
Prepare Best Pound Cake, but bake it in a 9-inch (6 ½-cup capacity) tube pan. While the cake bakes, prepare a syrup by combining in a small pan ½ cup lightly salted butter and ½ cup granulated sugar. Set over low heat and stir until the butter melts. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup whiskey. As soon as the cake is baked, set the pan on a wire rack. Use a thin skewer or cake tester to prick holes all over the cake. Pour warm syrup over the hot cake and allow it to cool completely in the pan. When cold, top with a plate, invert, and lift off the pan. Sift on confectioners' sugar.
Carol Townsend: What is the difference between Chicken Stock and Chicken Broth?
In a nutshell ?
Chicken stock is made with bones and chicken broth is made with meat and bones (usually a whole chicken). The two terms are often used interchangeably.
Laura Albanese: I only worked with morel mushrooms once and soaked them in salted water before sautéing some and frying the others. I thought I had them really clean but I think I saw very small worms coming out of them. How can I be sure I cleaned them correctly I am afraid to try them again.
If I think they might be harboring little beasties, I cut each mushroom in half from top to bottom and run each half quickly under cold running water, turning it over to clean out both the inside and the outside with all the crevices. I don't like to soak them because they get water logged and then don't sauté well. Those little bugs/worms are one of the hazards of cooking and eating such a mushroom but I think they are so delicious and special I don't mind.